Handing in petition to 10 Downing Street
The National Autistic Society teamed up with autistic campaigner Alexis Quinn this week to hand a petition with 217,828 signatures into number 10 Downing Street. Our joint petition calls on the Government to end the scandal of autistic people inappropriately detained in mental health hospitals. Thank you to everyone who has signed this petition.

Alexis was detained under the Mental Health Act in 2012. She spent almost three-and-a-half years in different mental health hospitals. She was restrained over 90 times, and, on one occasion was held in long-term segregation (solitary confinement) for eight days.

Alexis isn’t alone in facing this utterly appalling situation. Despite repeated promises from the Government to reduce how many autistic people are held in mental health hospitals, the numbers reported are rising. And our charity continues to hear disturbing stories of people being detained for long periods of time, miles away from their family - and in some disturbing cases restrained, overmedicated and held in solitary confinement. 

We are working with Alexis to get the Government to end this scandal once and for all. One of the reasons so many autistic people end up detained in mental health hospitals is that autism is defined as a ‘mental disorder’ in the Mental Health Act 1983, despite autism not being a mental health condition. Another is that the country doesn’t have the right services to support autistic people in their own homes. No-one should ever be stuck in an institution just because there’s nowhere else to go.

We’re calling on the Government to review the definition of autism in the Mental Health Act urgently and to develop the right community services in every area of the country.

Alexis QuinnAlexis Quinn (pictured above), who wrote the memoir Unbroken, and will be speaking at our Autism and Mental Health conference on 10 October in Leeds, said: "Thank you to everyone who has signed our joint petition.

"My time in inpatient care cost the state approximately £2.5 million. In reality, my mental health problems could have been treated at home if I was given the right specialist support. I would also have had my family and friends close by. This would have cost a fraction of this amount.

“Instead I was locked up, shut off from my family, leaving my baby daughter with no mother for months. I needed help – I asked for help – and it never happened. Instead, I was overmedicated, secluded and restrained over 90 times.

"The time has come for reports and investigations to end. No more empty promises. No more warm words. I call upon the new Government to end the abuse and mistreatment of autistic people and people with a learning disability in inpatient units."

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: "Our country's new Prime Minister has inherited the national scandal of autistic people being inappropriately detained under the Mental Health Act – often far from their families and for years on end.

"Despite repeated promises from different governments, the number of autistic people reported in mental health hospitals has continued to rise. And we continue to hear disturbing stories of people being detained for long periods of time, miles away from their family - and even restrained, overmedicated and kept in isolation. 

"Alongside Alexis and over 200,000 other people, we're demanding decisive action.

"Our new Prime Minister needs to lead us out of this mess. First the Government must commit money to develop the right community services so fewer autistic people get stuck in institutions. Second it must review the Mental Health Act’s definition of autism as a 'mental disorder' so autistic people aren’t wrongly sectioned.

"We need our new Prime Minister to end this scandal for good."

To keep up to date with our mental health campaign, and our other work to create a world that works for autistic people, sign up to receive our campaign updates.

Further information

  • Read more stories about autistic people who’ve been stuck in inpatient care in our Transforming Care: our stories report and find out about the extent of the scandal in our Beyond Transforming Care report.
  • For information about what to do if an autistic family member is at risk or has been admitted to or discharged from a mental health hospital, visit our page on autism and mental health.
  • Bringing us Together have produced this very useful Survival Guide for care and treatment reviews.