AN EXPERT in autism at Coventry University has been awarded a £250,000 grant to guide health service providers support adults with autism spectrum conditions (ASC).
Dr Sarah Cassidy is one of only 38 academics worldwide to receive funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) future research leaders programme.
The programme identifies early career academics that show world-leading potential in their field.
The three-year project will see Dr Cassidy carry out research to create a new valid set of measures which will enable health service providers to assess depression and the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in adults with ASC.
Currently, there are 700,000 individuals in the UK with ASC – and research by Dr Cassidy indicates an alarmingly high level of suicidal thoughts and depression.
Dr Cassidy said: “It’s an honour to be awarded this grant as part of the ESRC’s Future Research Leaders scheme.
“I’m looking forward to starting my research and making a positive impact by increasing access to mental health assessment and support for adults with ASC.”
Dr Cassidy said the government has now made it a priority for services to provide adults with ASC access to appropriate diagnosis, support and treatment for mental health problems – though progress is hampered by the lack of research.
She added: “Service providers do not understand how problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviours can manifest in people with ASC.
“This has led to many adults with ASC slipping through the net.
“We’re really keen to hear from people affected by ASC, whether that’s adults with the condition, their friends and family, charities or policymakers.
“These are the people who can help drive the direction of the research and ensure it has a valuable long-term effect.”