Suicide prevention in autism recognised with impact award

Thursday, 23 January 2020

A researcher from the University of Nottingham has been recognised for the impact of her work to prevent suicide developed in partnership with people diagnosed with autism.

Dr Sarah Cassidy from the School of Psychology won the National Autistic Society's prestigious Autism Professionals Awards, in the most impactful researcher category.

Dr Cassidy’s research focuses on understanding and preventing mental health problems, self-harm and suicide and has been developed in partnership with autistic people. 

Our research discovered that as many as 66% of autistic adults feel suicidal at some point in their life. Since then, we have worked in partnership with autistic people to identify what future research and public policy should focus on. Together we have raised awareness of the high risk of suicide in autistic people, influenced clinical guidelines, and increased research, funding and attention from policy makers to tackle this urgent issue head on. I’m delighted that our life saving work is being recognised by the National Autistic Society with this award and I don’t see this as just my award, but recognition of all the autistic people and their families who have joined me on this important journey and what we have achieved together to prevent suicide in autistic people”
Dr Sarah Cassidy

The annual awards recognise people, services and schools across the UK who are making a difference to autistic people and their families. The winners were announced at a special ceremony on 27 February at Birmingham Town Hall, following the first day of the National Autistic Society’s Professionals Conference.

Dr Cassidy was shortlisted by an independent panel of autism specialists, who were looking for high standards of innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability. By celebrating their achievements, the National Autistic Society hopes to increase public understanding of autism and inspire other people and organisations to make a difference too. There are 13 awards for individuals and organisations, covering education, health, social care, employment, and volunteering.

There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. Many autistic people need extra time to process information, like questions or instructions, feel intense anxiety in social or unexpected situations and find noise, and bright lights painful and distressing.

Every autistic person is different and will have their own strengths and challenges. Some autistic people might need 24-hour care; others may need clearer communication or a little longer to do things at school or work. Without the right support or understanding, autistic people can miss out on an education, struggle to find work and become extremely isolated.

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said: “Our awards celebrate exceptional people, schools and services making a huge difference to autistic children and adults, and their families.

“All the finalists should be commended for impressing the judges and standing out among so many excellent nominations. 

“We want to celebrate their achievements and share their stories, so we can promote innovative autism practice and inspire other people and organisations to help create a society that works for autistic people."

Find out more about autism, the Autism Professionals Awards and the Professionals Conference by visiting:

Story credits

More information on the research is available from Dr Sarah Cassidy at the University of Nottingham on or Jane Icke Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham, on 0115 951 5751 or For more information about the Autism Professionals Awards and the Professionals Conference, please contact the National Autistic Society’s media team at

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 951 5751

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. The University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its status as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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