Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory researchers secure new grants

Researchers Ewelina Rydzewska and Kirsty Dunn from the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory have received funding to investigate suicide incidence in people with autism and the mental health of fathers who care for a son or daughter with learning disabilities.

Suicide incidence in people with autism

Photo of Ewelina Rydzewska Dr Ewelina Rydzewska (pictured) and Professor Craig Melville from the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory (SLDO), in collaboration with colleagues from IHW, the Universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham, Autistica and the Edinburgh and Lothian Asperger Society (ELAS) have been awarded CSO funding to investigate the incidence of suicide attempts and deaths in people with autism and explore the extent to which co-occurring mental health conditions (e.g. anxiety, depression, substance use disorders), contact with healthcare services and socioeconomic factors mitigate or compound the risk of suicide in this population.

The study will have direct implications for the healthcare provision delivered to autistic patients in terms of identifying risk factors within this population. This, in turn, will inform policy, service commission and public spending in order to help improve professional understanding of health needs of people with autism and plan appropriate prevention measures. With help from partners at Autistica and ELAS, the team will adopt a diverse strategy for dissemination to ensure that study outputs are useful, timely, appropriate and action oriented.

On the significance of the work that lies ahead, Ewelina commented:

"We’re really excited to start this project, which will be the first in the world to investigate suicide death rate and predictors in a whole country population of people with autism, using Scotland’s internationally unique administrative and health data linkage environment."

The mental health of father carers of a son or daughter with learning disabilities

Photo of Kirsty DunnDr Kirsty Dunn, Research Associate in the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory, has been awarded a grant by the Baily Thomas Charitable Fund to investigate the mental health of father carers of a son or daughter with learning disabilities.

The majority of research on the mental health and wellbeing of parents of offspring with learning disabilities has focused on mothers, with little known about the mental health of fathers. The grant will enable Kirsty and her team to address this gap by investigating the mental health of father carers of people with learning disabilities in a large data set, and identifying factors associated with their mental health.

Reflecting on the award, Kirsty said:

"I am delighted that the Baily Thomas Charitable Trust has awarded us this grant. We hope that the project will increase our understanding of father carers’ mental health and assist policy makers and service providers to meet the needs of father carers in future."

The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory is funded by the Scottish Government to generate evidence and build understanding of the causes of poor health and health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities and people with autism. Find out more about the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory

First published: 14 March 2018

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