Mental Wellness has been neglected in favour of employment support for autistics. Unfortunately, it is insufficient to provide autistics with an hour of counselling or psychotherapy per month and send them back to live in dysfunctional families and unwelcoming workplaces.
Many have emotional trauma due to past social experiences. Add to that mix unsympathetic family members who subject them to verbal harassment and even evict them to force them to get better-paid full-time employment. Meanwhile, they often have to confront bullies, impatient supervisors and dreadful office politics at work.
Many are lonely but do not have people of the same neurotribe to befriend and mentor them – resulting in them becoming emotionally unbalanced. Perhaps because of this, autistics are 4 times more likely to be depressed. Their desperation to find companionship may get them in trouble with the law such as when autistic men stalk women whom they were attracted to. The suicide rate for autistics is 10 times higher than for the general population.
The biggest problem with employing many autistics with low support needs is their deeply ingrained self-defeating attitudes and behaviours acquired due to growing up in an ableist environment that failed to provide suitable accommodation and support to help them become emotionally mature and self-confident adults.
Examples include emotional outbursts when people fail to meet expectations, refusing to participate as team members, insisting on fixed ways of doing things, believing there is no need to learn from others, expecting others to accommodate them without making effort to accommodate others, a strong dependence on external guidance rather than personal initiative, and taking for granted help from those who go the extra mile for them.
Rather than addressing the psychological (e.g. emotional trauma) and physiological needs (e.g. chronic fatigue) of autistics, most focus on upgrading autistics’ academic qualifications and mastering daily living, artistic or technical skillsets. However, even with PhD qualifications, the mastery of public speaking and useful life skills (such as driving skills) are insufficient to ensure employment.
It is necessary to provide a complete solution for mental wellness that includes a supportive living, work and social environment in combination with autism-friendly mental health support so that they can overcome their inner challenges to thrive. It is important to encourage autistics to reconnect to their dreams that inspire them rather than chide them for being impractical. It is important to remind them to accept the goodness, beauty, meaning and truth of the world rather than be upset about their naivety.
We should also support the development and training of autistic mental health professionals to help support their peers instead of solely relying on non-autistic professionals. This will help autistic professionals be accepted by the mainstream and challenge the belief that autistic people are incapable of work involving people skills.
Only with these then do we have true acceptance of those who think differently from ourselves.