Suicide is one of the world’s leading causes of death. Yet “suicide” is still spoken in hushed tones. So much stigma is wrapped up in the word. Another word that’s not often discussed: “addiction.”
90% of people who die by suicide have depression, a substance abuse disorder, or both (addictioncenter.com). In my home country of the UK, 6,507 people per year die by suicide, representing 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people (Mental Health Foundation).
And so, for people who are both neurodivergent and addicts like myself, it is of the utmost importance that there is a better understanding of suicide and it’s causes. It’s a matter of life and death.
Neurodivergence refers to neurodevelopmental diagnoses– in other words, being wired differently. Though there are other neurodivergent diagnoses, this article references ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and Tourette Syndrome.
Autistic people are 9 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population according to Autistica. ADHDers have double the risk of suicide. Also, 25% of people in substance abuse programs are ADHDers, and they are as much as ten times more likely to struggle with addiction. Those with Tourette Syndrome have a high occurrance with substance abuse disorders and are four times more likely to die by suicide. Dyslexics have significantly higher rates of suicide and self-injury and of substance abuse disorders/addiction.
Higher risk, less discussion
With suicide being so prevalent in marginalised communities such as the neurodivergent (ND) population, I find it concerning that there is so little discussion of mental health and addiction among ND communities.
From my interaction with medical professionals, it seems as though mental illness is considered an additional (unofficial) trait of autism or ADHD, with many autistic people being told that their mental health problems are to be expected. This interpretation of mental health challenges as the ND norm feels like the world doesn’t value or recognize the neurodivergent struggle to fight back.
The Online ND Community
In the online ND community, discussion of mental health and addiction is probably one of the least viewed and discussed issues.
Even on NeuroClastic, a publication centered on neurodiversity, articles discussing addiction rarely to get 150 views in a week on a website with thousands of visitors every day.
Lack of Resources for Addicts
Addiction in itself is an incredibly isolating experience. The changes it causes to a person’s behaviour often alienates friends and loved ones, driving the addict deeper into a world of self-hatred and harmful habitual behaviour.
As an neurodivergent addict, the world feels impossible to navigate, with very little in the way of advice available. Even professionals tend not to know what to do with autistic addicts.
I have suspected for a long time now that the reason we don’t see many ND addicts speaking out is because they are no longer with us.
The compounding of suicide risk due to the intersection of neurodivergence, addiction, and mental health has perhaps robbed us of voices that we so desperately need to hear.
My people are out in the world, dying because they cannot see a way out, and still the world remains silence on links between nurodivergence and addiction in co-existence.
We need to talk about addiction & neurodivergence now.
If we want Suicide Prevention Week to mean something, then we need to start having difficult conversations about mental health and addiction among ND people.
Neurodivergent people are also at a higher risk to be bullied, sexually assaulted, abused by parents, murdered, discriminated against, and wrongfully terminated from their jobs.
We must dig into the systematic traumatising of ND children and adults and learn to support each other through the different outcomes of that trauma.
Starting the conversation about neurodivergence, addiction, and mental health is the first step towards preventing suicides in a community that for so long has been oppressed by mainstream society.