Photo by Judah Wester on Unsplash

Suicide Risk vs. Autistic Thinking

Jim Irion

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There are few psychological experiences a human being can endure that are as impactful as suicide. I know… I am a loss survivor from losing a fellow classmate in 9th grade who was as humble a person as I have ever known. I will never forget the last class he had, which we shared, and where I sat just out of reach from him. An image that is burned into my mind. Ever since, I have carried the burden of wishing I had literally reached out to help him that day.

But he and many others like him are gone. Suicide prevention efforts still fail society because not enough firsthand experience is utilized. This July will mark the 20-year anniversary of not just one decision I made that changed my life forever. This year will mark my resilience as a suicide attempt survivor and the depth of my autistic experience that has been behind all of it.

Losing someone to suicide is not the same as suffering through an attempt firsthand. There should also be no misconceptions about how suicide attempt survivors continue to be treated as menaces to society (The Day the Cops Were Called, Part 1). What many suspect and too few know for sure is the true risk of our susceptibility to suicide ideation. I am one of the few autistic people who are strong and articulate enough to discuss it. Believe me, it takes both.

Attempts and acts of furtherance are intense experiences to process, let alone talk about. Thanks to my autistic skill for memory retention, I remember a moment in my life over 20 years ago that stuck out like a sore thumb as a red flag. I just did not know until last year that it was a direct connection to autism. This is why autism comprehension is essential. The key is in our thinking.

“If I cannot decide whether or not to live my life, no one can make that decision for me.”

Within a year or two before my suicide attempt in 2003, these were my exact words for what I was thinking about my life. And I can tell you where this came from too. After I graduated high school, I remember coming across a statement that I have seen common in mental health and wellness today: you are not alone. In short, this point of view has never helped me feel better about any hardship in my life.

I would see someone in similar circumstances or age, yet I was unable to relate to them to feel any comfort simply because my life did not change. Theirs did. They would eventually move on from me, leaving me behind through no fault of their own. This was not a lack of empathy. It was me. I literally thought myself into a corner. Quote me.

Now notice how direct the logic is. That is because logic is the pivotal clue as to how autism influences suicide susceptibility. If our neurology is imbalanced with higher intelligence, then logic happens at a more subconscious level in us, which is what can make it problematic for ideation. If logic drives my thinking, my quoted words are now seen in an entirely different light from empathy.

My logic-driven thinking has deduced something so basic that nothing can affect it unless my life changes. I am the only master of my fate. Hence, this is how I thought myself into a corner. I am still very analytical in my thinking because I am still autistic. This is what it is like to be us. I am lucky to have survived suicide and lived to share so much detail for mental health professionals and researchers to benefit from. But how many of us have not survived?

Using my logic-driven talent for pattern recognition, I strongly fear that a considerable number of suicides may actually be undiagnosed autistic people, whose analytical thinking makes us susceptible to ideation. Suicide is widely believed to be vastly under-reported too. How exactly does an embattled 21-year-old know who to report it to? They don’t. It is far too stigmatized to talk about or to report it. Imagine if we knew the truth about autism and suicide statistics.

#LetThatThinkIn

Welcome to the next Autism Experience.
To Be or Not to Be Autistic.

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Jim Irion

I am an autistic advocate, writer and presenter. My writing is primary source research material. "A leader leads. They don't walk away when someone needs help."