By Roberts Manson – Neurodiversity Occupation Health Consultant
For those specialising and supporting neurodivergent employees, it is widely known that many have co-current conditions particularly associated with mental health conditions. These may or may not have been identified or diagnosed with many being treated for separate conditions.
Evidence shows that there is a higher prevalence of mental health conditions in those individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Autistica suggests that co-occurring mental health conditions affect up to 79% of neurodivergent adults.
It is estimated that up to 50% of people with ADHD have a co-occurring anxiety disorder, and are three times more likely to have depression than people who do not have ADHD (Cunic, 2020). Miller (2021) also found that people with ADHD are five times more likely to develop psychotic disorders, such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Approximately 40% of autistic adults have had depression, and 2 in 5 autistic people will be diagnosed with an accompanying anxiety disorder (Autistica).
Most concerningly, research suggests that neurodivergent people are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts, compared to neurotypical people. Hedley and Uljarevic (2018) found that as many as 66% of autistic adults had considered suicide during their lifetime.
Also, with higher rates of sickness absence and reduced productivity being experienced, it is important to identify the root causes of why someone may not be feeling well and underperforming. This is why having a joined up holistic approach to supporting employees has never been so important.
“Remain empathetic and understanding of your neurodivergent employees, who are trying their best to navigate a neurotypical world. Make small adjustments to make their working life easier and look out for their mental wellbeing” (Bupa)
On World Mental Health Day, on October 10th, Creased Puddle would like to put the spotlight on those people who are neurodivergent who also have co-occurring mental health conditions.
We would encourage all employers to consider the following:
- Review your Diversity and Inclusion policies to make sure that everyone is clear of their responsibilities
- Make sure Individual stress risk assessments are undertaken for those neurodivergent employees impacted by workplace pressures.
- If personal safety issues are identified then review and update health and safety risk assessments.
- Refer employees early to Occupational Health so that early fitness to work assessment are undertaken.
- Refer to specialist neurodiversity organisations so that Workplace needs Assessments, Coaching and training can be implemented and everyone is aware of what is required.
- Take a multidisciplinary approach by involving all stakeholders including line management, Human Resources, Occupational Health and other appropriate personnel.
- Audit and review your support for neurodivergent employees by using a ‘Plan Do Check Act’ model so a continuous improvement plan is in place and in use.
For more information
Bupa Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace guidance
Cunic, A. (2020) The relationship between ADHD and Depression. Very Well Mind.
Hedley, D. and Uljarevic, M. (2018) Systematic Review of Suicide in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Current Trends and Implications. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 5, 65-76.
Miller, B. (2021). Examining the Relationship Between ADHD and Psychotic Disorders. Psychiatric Times.