Mental health and autism

Image of girl with long brown hair, wearing a blue t-shirt, standing in front of a turqoise background with the number 18 written on it

Mental health is a major public health issue, particularly for autistic people.

Know your Normal: In 2017, members of the CRAE team (Laura Crane and Liz Pellicano) collaborated with a group of young autistic people from the charity Ambitious about Autism (Fern Adams, Georgia Harper and Jack Welch) to co-produce a research study as part of the “Know your Normal” campaign.  Know Your Normal aimed to examine the mental health experiences of young autistic people, and promote an understanding of what wellbeing looks like for this group. This project won the UCL Provost’s Prize for Public Engagement 2018, In the category ‘Public Engagement Team of the Year’.

CRAE lead: Laura Crane

Key publications:

Review of mental health interventions for autistic people: Laura Crane is part of a team (led by Professor Kurinchi Gurusamy, UCL) that is conducting a systematic review and network meta-analysis on mental health interventions for autistic people. 

Randomised controlled trials are research studies that are thought to provide the best information about how well a treatment works, when conducted well. Many randomised controlled trials have been performed to find out how well treatments work compared to other treatments in preventing or treating poor mental health in autistic people. In this review, we plan to assess the benefits and harms of different treatments for poor mental health in autistic people.  We will conduct a thorough search for published and unpublished randomised controlled trials on this issue (‘systematic review’). We will then combine the information from all these trials to analyse how good the treatments are (‘meta-analysis’). The existing high-quality systematic reviews compare only two treatments at a time. We will use advanced methods that allow us to compare many different treatments at the same time (‘network meta-analysis’). This research will help us understand which treatments are most likely to effectively treat different types of poor mental health in autistic people.  Eventually, we hope to lower the burden of mental health problems in autistic people. The review will also identify where further research is necessary. 

CRAE lead: Laura Crane

Loneliness in autism: Loneliness is an intense and frequent feeling amongst autistic people, often leading to mental health problems. Yet, there are currently no ways of measuring loneliness among autistic people specifically. This may lead to a lack of recognition of the nature and extent of loneliness in this group. In this research, CRAE researchers will be conducting a comprehensive investigation into autistic people’s perspectives of loneliness and will aim to develop tools to better identify loneliness in autistic adults.

CRAE lead: Laura Crane with Kana Umagami

Key publications:

Autism stigma: Many autistic adults experience public stigma, and some internalise stigma with negative effects on their self-worth and mental health. While ongoing efforts to reduce stigma at the public level are crucial, change can be slow, and autistic adults may also benefit from support at the individual level to prevent self-stigma. So, CRAE researchers are using a participatory approach to develop and evaluate a stigma-related support programme for autistic adults.

CRAE lead: Emeline Han with Laura Crane and Kana Umagami

Key publications:

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