A friend sent me a tragic news story about a father of a young man with autism, who had been caring for him alone, and had health problems of his own who had ended up taking the young man’s life before taking his own.
Sadly, this is not uncommon.
Murder and suicide are never the right path, but in order to prevent this type of thing from happening, and in order to make it extremely uncommon, you have to look at why it happened. And you have to look at it compassionately. To condemn someone who is so desperate that they will end the life of someone they love dearly, as well as their own is too easy. “There but for the grace of God, go I.” The human mind is a mystery, and the only part of the human body that still has a stigma attached to its treatment.
This is not new. Anyone who has read Thomas Hardy’s book Jude the Obscure, for example (or really any of Hardy’s books), knows that people have been making desperate choices when no other options are afforded for centuries. The problem we have to address is the lack of support and resources.
The 1 in 68 are rapidly becoming young adults aging out of a public school system that exits them with virtually nowhere to go. Any programs or services available are largely hit or miss, or are so abominable, no one would place their child there for a minute. If you’ve ever scanned the want-ads, you will often find job listings for personal care providers paying minimum wage. What type of people do you think are attracted to a part-time minimum wage job? Desperate people. And then we’re back to where we started.
We need a robust plan for our autism community that includes meaningful employment for all on the spectrum, adequate housing opportunities, and comprehensive assistance for families and caregivers who often suffer right along with their children due to lack of sleep, anxiety, and post-traumatic type symptoms. What we have now is not enough, and we cannot expect families and caregivers to endure without tragedies continuing to occur.
How many times will we read the same headlines before we do something?