***This article was provided by Servio Carroll, Awards Chair for WSPA***

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About Medscape: Medscape is the online newsletter of WebMD. WebMD provides health information on the Internet, which I have used for several years to keep abreast of the research in some areas of interest in behavioral health, e.g., ethics, ADHD, PTSD, ASD, addictions, depression, schizophrenia, and ‘hot topics’. Medscape is free of advertising and one selects their individual areas of health related information wanted. WebMD’s site states the following: “We provide credible information, supportive communities, and in-depth reference material about subjects that matter to you. We are a source for original and timely health information as well as material from well known content providers.” I have no connections whatsoever with WebMD or Medscape, but I have found some of the information provided by Medscape useful and over time have shared some with my colleagues, and thought this site might be might be interested to some.

Autism Tied to Suicidal Behavior in Teens, Young Adults

Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW

January 29, 2018

Adolescents and young adults with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have a higher risk for suicide attempts, compared to the nonautistic population, new research shows.

Taiwanese investigators headed by Ya-Mei Bai, MD, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, used data from a national insurance database to compare more than 5600 adolescents and young adults to 22,500 age- and sex-matched control persons.

They found that the incidence of suicide attempts was higher among adolescents and young adults with ASD than among those without ASD, especially during later life. The prevalence of suicide-related psychiatric comorbidities was also higher among those with ASD.

“Our study results supported the hypothesis that adolescents and young adults with ASD are more likely to attempt suicide in later life, compared with those without ASD, after adjustment for demographic data and psychiatric comorbidities,” the authors write.

“In clinical practice, suicide-related symptoms and psychopathology should be more closely monitored among patients with ASD,” they note.

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Emotional Dysregulation

“Several recent studies have suggested a potential relationship between ASD and suicide,” the authors write.

However, these studies have several limitations, including small sample sizes, the use of self-report questionnaire rather than medical documents that provide evidence of suicidality, and the application of a retrospective rather than a longitudinal follow-up study design, they note.

To fill these gaps in existing studies, the researchers turned to the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, which consists of healthcare data from >97% of the population of Taiwan, to investigate the risk for suicide attempts among adolescents and young adults with ASD. Their study had a longitudinal follow-up design.

Children and adolescents aged 12 and 17 years and young adults aged 18 to 29 years who were diagnosed with ASD between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2009 (n = 5618) were included as the ASD cohort. They were compared to a randomly identified cohort of 22,472 predominantly male (78.2%) age- and sex-matched control persons.

Any suicide attempt coded by emergency department and internal medicine physicians, psychiatrists, and surgeons was identified during the follow-up period, which was from the time of enrollment to December 31, 2011, or death.

Comorbid psychiatric diagnoses included attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], disruptive behavior disorders, intelligence disability, unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorder, and substance use disorder. These comorbidities were assessed as confounding factors.