Mental Health Act 1983 document image on purple background


Getting the right support for mental health issues is absolutely vital for autistic people. Autism is not a mental health condition, but many autistic people develop separate mental health problems. Often this can stem from a lack of appropriate support, which means that autistic people can develop more significant needs.

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At the National Autistic Society, we have been campaigning for better mental health support for a long time. Our charity’s work has included pushing for quicker autism diagnosis, getting mental health support after diagnosis, and reducing the number of autistic people who are ‘sectioned’.

Change the Definition – Change the Destination

In order to address the national scandal of too many autistic people being sectioned we must address problematic definitions within our laws. We have serious concerns with the current definition of “mental disorder” within the Mental Health Act which means that autistic people can find themselves treated inappropriately.

In February 2019 we launched an open letter to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, calling on him to review the definition. Over 17,000 people added their name to this open letter to end the scandal of autistic people and people with a learning disability being inappropriately detained in inpatient units under the Mental Health Act.

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As our Transforming Care: our stories report showed, inpatient mental health hospitals are often the wrong place for autistic people to get the right support. Evidence suggests that they can be at risk of being restrained and over-medicated. Too many people can end up ‘stuck’, being supported by staff who often don’t understand autism. And all too often nobody takes responsibility for finding the right place for people to move into the community.

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  • Autistic people and mental health hospitals
  • Blog: Reviewing the Mental Health Act