Living with autism and mental health issues

One readers talks about his experience with mental health issues

Written by Antony Caulfield


TW: This article mentions suicidal ideation. Please take care while reading. 

Throughout my life I have always realised that I have been different. Subtle differences that may not have been that noticeable to others, but on the inside these were having a major impact on my life. Shyness, poor social interaction, lack of friends are just some of the issues that after 20 years lead to a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are major issues within the autistic community. This article aims to give an insight into the world of mental health in a person with autism. 

Mental health is something that has affected me every day of my life for the past 4 years. One week on from my latest mental health crisis, I write this in a much better state. Despite all of the supports given to me from my local hospital, life can become unbearable.

A happy, fulfilled life is possible

The piece of paper on the door in my bedroom says ‘I Don’t Want to Die’. This piece of paper is placed strategically throughout my room, to remind me in times of crisis that really I don’t want to die. I have to pass this sheet of paper with terms to try and distract me from the inner voice telling me that my life is not worth living. 

Luckily I know I can get through this. I know that a hospital admission will not do me any good. I am finally starting to realise after 7 months of inpatient hospital treatment for mental health issues, that life with a mental health condition is tough, but it is possible to live a happy and fulfilled life with the occasional blip/crisis. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is my main mental health condition along with Anxiety and Depression. OCD is an illness in which unwanted thoughts / obsessions pop into the persons head and they must carry out a behaviour such as tapping in order to get rid of this obsessive thought. Often misunderstood, OCD is listed as one of the top ten most debilitating conditions by the World Health Organisation.

Ireland’s mental health system

For me the mental health system in Ireland is great once you get into it. I have the support of a Psychologist, Psychiatrist and Occupational Therapist. The problem is getting into the public system is a nightmare. For me it was a suicide attempt that resulted in hospitalisation, this should never be considered even in the darkest moments of a mental health crisis. I have learned this the hard way, in a near death experience.  Although this was the way in which I entered the public mental health system, there are other ways which may take time, but are worth it once you get the support. A referral to your local mental health services can be obtained through your GP or in times of crisis through your local A&E department.   

For me, it’s the simple things that help to keep me mentally strong.  Regular healthy meals, regular physical activity, regular social activity and keeping in touch with the local mental health services, as well as keeping to a routine through participation in a college course or work. It sounds really basic but I am finally starting to realise it’s what works. 

Gaining insight

As we grow older we gain an insight into how to cope with mental health issues. This is the same as with Asperger’s Syndrome. I believe growing up with Asperger’s is what caused my mental health issues in my late teens. I hope that this article can give an insight into the difficulties faced by people with an autistic spectrum disorder.  

Before I was admitted under the care of the local mental health services there was one organisation that helped me to get through the tough times. Pieta House has personally helped me get through some of the darkest times in my life. Without it and the help of the community mental health team I am sure that I would not be here today. 

For anyone suffering in silence, there is help out there. It may be a tough journey, but I am finally starting to realise that a life with a mental health condition can be very liveable

If you need to talk, please contact:

Samaritans 116 123 
Aware 1800 80 48 48 
Pieta House 1800 247 247
Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634
Childline 1800 66 66 66

This article was written by a volunteer. Check out our volunteering options here and get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved.

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