Susan Burton-Bowler, 61, has lived with autism all her life. But it was only four years ago, when she started seeing a mental health professional, that she began to unpick the tangle of anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder that had drawn ever-tighter as she struggled with the conflicting demands of adulthood and ASD.
Her obsessive-compulsive symptoms, once “through the roof,” are under control: “now that I have support, I can recognize it and (say to myself), ‘don’t go there.’ ”
But Burton-Bowler recognizes that she is a rare case. She told her story Thursday at the announcement of a new Ontario working group that will focus on how to meet the mental health needs of the 93,000 adults in Ontario who have ASD — a vastly underserved population, experts say.
One in 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to U.S. figures. Support for children, already meagre, falls off dramatically — and heartbreakingly — as kids come of age, speakers said Thursday.
“There is a need for services for children.But we need to keep in mind that these children grow up,” said psychiatrist Doug Weir, co-chair of the new committee.
“We need to continue to provide services so they can lead both meaningful and productive lives. But without help, it’s a challenge for them.”
The working group was formed to respond to what Weir called “an alarming lack of knowledge and appropriate services.” Their first goal is a conference this fall that will educate clinicians on the mental health problems faced by adults with ASD, who are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.
More broadly, the committee will advocate for a comprehensive system of care that can support individuals with ASD throughout their whole lives.
“A difficult thing for the autism community is that we’ve not been very good at reaching out to the mental health community in the past, and vice versa,” said Kevin Stoddart, another committee co-chair and founding director of the Redpath Centre. Thursday’s announcement was held at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a partner in the working group.
Burton-Bowler said that when she first sought help four years ago, “it was pretty evident . . . that I need a different kind of care.” While autism is a lifelong challenge, she is far better off now that she has that care.
“Mental health is a right for all Canadians,” she said.
【News Source:2014.8.7 Toronto Star Newspapers】