Aspergers, Depression and Robin Williams
With the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing, I recalled reading several articles when MJ was first diagnosed about “famous” people with Aspergers and surprised to see Robin Williams name on the list. Although it appears that it was never confirmed, it was highly suspected when you looked at both his social awkwardness and hyper nature.
Although he had several other demons he battled including substance abuse, he was as of late, battling severe depression according to his publicist.
One of the lesser talked about co-morbidities (for lack of a better term) with Aspergers is depression. A study in 2012 in Sweden reported that 70% of young adults with Aspergers had suffered from depression at one point or another.
The Aspergers Association of New England published an article written by one of their community members and speakers, Nomi Kim on her struggles with depression and Apsergers. If you click on any of the links in this post, I urge you to click on this one. I think I read it three or four times because it is such a raw view of the challenges this author is facing and why traditional therapies have not worked for her.
A recent study by researchers from the University of Cambridge suggests that Adults with Aspergers are at much higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts than the general population.
The team found that 66% of patients with Asperger’s had thought about committing suicide and of these, 35% had planned or attempted suicide during their lifetime.
You can read more from the findings here.
As a parent of a child with Aspergers who just this morning, changed outfits twice because she felt ‘ugly’ in the first outfit; and who often refuses to leave the house unless she is wearing a dress – because she feels people won’t like her otherwise – these studies frighten me. I think, if she feels like this now at 5 (and has since she was 3), what are the teenage years going to be like when the social pressure to fit in is strongest?
We are lucky to have had her diagnosed at an early age (3.5) and have been able to get early intervention therapy, which has made a drastic difference on so many levels. However, as we head into the school system in the fall, I can already see a gap in available services; a gap that will only widen the older she gets. I know as a parent it will be critical for me to watch for warning signs as she grows up.
It saddens me to think that my smart, funny, ridiculously adorable daughter (look at those eyes!) thinks people won’t like her if she isn’t dressed right or is already calling herself ugly. I know she doesn’t get it from me! While I don’t think I’m a super model and know I could stand to lose a few pounds, I’m ok with who I am. In fact, I’ve stopped wearing make up and rarely, if ever wear dresses to show her that I am comfortable and confident to be out in public regardless of what I am wearing (well, ok, I do at least brush my hair and try to wear clothes that match or don’t have holes 🙂
Autism is not something you outgrow, you have it for life, it’s a neurological condition that alters the way the brain processes information. If we can take anything from Robin Williams’ apparent suicide, it’s the need for services well beyond the pre-school years. Teenagers and adults with Autism need a strong support system, much stronger than what family and friends can provide and it’s critical that governments realize this and extend services – because traditional mental health services (among other things) are not enough and risk failing those whose brain’s think and react differently.
May your brain be at rest now Robin Williams,