Autism and Mental Health
If you are worried about an autistic friend’s mental wellbeing, it is important to talk to them, and encourage them to look after themselves and seek specialist help if needed. Autistic young people might find it harder to communicate how they feel, so here are some tips that can help you to have a positive conversation:
- Try to talk in a quiet, calm environment. Background noise, fluorescent lighting – even the sound of you stirring your tea – can be really distracting and make a difficult conversation much harder.
- Find out what kind of communication works for them. It can be helpful to ask your friend how they prefer to communicate. Some people may prefer to text, or write something down, or to have time in advance to think about their answers.
- Ask closed, direct questions. Autistic people can find open questions such as "How was your day?" much harder to answer than something more defined, like "Did anything happen today that upset you?"
- Allow enough time for them to answer. An autistic person may take some time to process your question and respond to it. When waiting for an answer, it might feel tempting to ask the question again, or rephrase – silences can feel awkward! Instead, give your friend plenty of time to respond, and be OK with the silence.