Skip to main content
Autistic and OK

Mental health wellbeing
Tuesday 27 February 2024

How misunderstandings and stigma around autism can impact mental health and wellbeing

Autism and mental health

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about autism. With misunderstanding comes caution, and with caution comes opposition. This is why such a large proportion of autistic people face challenges with their mental health and wellbeing.

Whether it comes from classmates, doctors, or the general public, stigma is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety among autistic children and young people.  

I’ve been put in front of a classroom multiple times solely to be ridiculed and laughed at. It’s no surprise that I refused to go to school and was subsequently expelled more than once. Of course, my case is sadly just one of many when it comes to autistic young people in schools.

Bullying is rarely dealt with in school under the assumption that children will always act against each other as it’s in their nature, but some of the worst treatment I have ever faced comes from authority figures twice my age.  


My diagnosis journey

I was diagnosed in November 2022, at 20 years old. To many people, a late diagnosis can make it seem like my childhood was easy and forgiving compared to those diagnosed in their early years. However, a psychiatrist stated to my mother 15 years ago that I was a lost cause after months of attempted therapy. By seven years old, I was already facing a life of severe mental health issues when I couldn’t comprehend what that even meant.

We’re taught from the second we enter school that independence is the ultimate end goal. Everyone is expected to move out and get a job once they turn 18.  

We’re rarely taught that sometimes people just can’t do those things no matter how hard we push the “different abilities” mindset. Sometimes you will live with your parents well into adulthood, maybe even forever, just like myself.  


My role as a Youth Advisor for the Autistic and OK programme

Being part of the Ambitious Youth Network and becoming a Youth Advisor on the Autistic and OK programme have helped me come a long way with self-acceptance despite years of discrimination. Being around like-minded people has transformed the way I view myself.

It’s important that we teach children, autistic or not, that dependence on others is a part of human life and not a moral failing. There are plenty of people who give up on something they love because they don’t ask for help and plenty of people who want to help but don’t receive it because nobody asks.

The only end goal we should be concerned about is making a life that is comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

Find out more about the Autistic and OK programme.


About the author  

Gabriel joined the Ambitious Youth Network in 2022 and has since become a Youth Advisor for the Autistic and OK programme and has been a committed member of the team co-developing the toolkit resources.