SFA: Suicide First Aid and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Research has demonstrated that suicide for people with Autism is a very real issue.

  • 66% of people newly diagnosed have contemplated suicide. Dr Cassidy from Coventry University, provided research evidence in 2014
  • A population study in Sweden in 2016 concluded that suicide is the leading cause of premature death in people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
  • Women with autism without comorbid learning disability were most at risk of dying by suicide. By contrast, most suicides in the UK general population are in men. Meaning most population based prevention strategies may not be effective. (Cassidy & Rodgers, 2017)
  • 14% of children with ASD think of suicide, this is 28 times greater than that for typical children (0.5%). (Mayes, Gorman, Hillwig-Garcia, & Syed, 2013)
  • Cassidy also stated that “the small body of research that does exist exposes serious shortcomings in how prepared we are to intervene and provide effective support to those with autism who are most at risk of dying by suicide”.

SFA: Suicide First Aid through Understanding Suicide Interventions has responded, providing a specialist one-day training programme for those working with people on the autistic spectrum, without comorbid learning disability.

The course has been accredited by City & Guilds of London. Upon satisfactory completion participants attain 6 NQF credits at level 4. This is the National Qualification in Suicide Prevention 2013-18

What others have said:

All our clients are autistic, and a significant minority have struggled with either suicidal thoughts or suicidal behaviour. We therefore arranged a day’s training for our team with NCSPT, which Fiona delivered because in addition to her deep knowledge and experience of suicide prevention work, she also has a strong background in supporting autistic people. The event turned out to be that rarest of occasions: a training day, which gave us exactly what we needed, including the confidence to take the theory and put it into practice. It was hugely affirmative. Many of my colleagues who attended opted to do the follow-up City & Guilds level 4 qualification, and this has been very positive in terms of our own practice. I’m more than happy to recommend this training to others who are supporting autistic people – in fact I genuinely can’t recommend it too highly.

David Perkins| Director, AS Mentoring”

Course overview:

Teaching the theory and practice of suicide intervention skills that can be applied in any professional or personal setting, captured in a one-day event accredited by City and Guilds of London. Delivered by a trainer who has extensive experience of Autism and Suicide Prevention, and has worked to adapt the programme to meet the needs of this group, offering the flexibility to develop the conversation around the learners needs.

Course content:

SFAUSI is comprised of 4 parts, each approximately 90 minutes duration. The programme teaches and practices the skills and knowledge needed to identify someone who may be thinking about suicide and competently intervene to help create suicide-safety as a first aid approach.

Part 1 – 09:30 to 11:00

▪    Introduction to: the day; programme; ourselves and suicide prevention

▪    Stigma, Survivors of bereavement by suicide and the Hidden Toll

▪    Suicide thoughts and suicide behaviour

▪    Intention of behaviour Versus Outcome of behaviour

▪    Possible Causes of Suicide thoughts

Part 2 – 11:15 to 12:45

▪    Suicide – the Ripple Effect

▪    Population-based approach to suicide prevention

▪    Partnership working

▪    Working with attitudes and values

▪    “I’m so glad you told me” audio visual

Part 3 – 13:30 to 14:45

▪    Meeting the needs of a person who is thinking about suicide

This is often more complex with ASD, especially if the person does not understand his or her own needs. Additional discussion time is built into the programme allowing ‘case studies’ to be looked at, building knowledge, and understanding of how we meet the needs of a person with ASD, who is having thoughts of suicide. 

▪    Suicide-Safety Guide

▪    Step 1 – Recognising suicide and Asking about suicide

People with ASD do not always give out conventional signs, and it can be difficult to decipher the signs. The programme addresses different ways we can unpick what is going on for someone with ASD. Asking any question of someone with ASD is not always easy; our programme works with the learners to develop new ways of discussing suicide with people on the autistic spectrum. 

▪    Step 2 – Understanding options

This is an area that needs additional input with someone who has ASD, the programme works with the learners existing skills, to strengthen them, instilling confidence in offering suicide first aid. 

Part 4 – 15:00 to 16:30

▪    Step 3 – Safeguarding suicide

▪    Suicide-safety and self-care

▪    The risk assessment approach

▪    Suicide and suicide gestures

▪    Future learning


Methods of delivery:

Taught over 6 hours using tutor facilitated Socratic learning, tutor-led role-play, mini lectures, group work, and audiovisual presentations. This is a highly interactive and emotionally engaging learning experience.

Pre-training requirement:

No previous experience or training is necessary. Participants will be asked to self- reflect and empathise with a person having thoughts of suicide.


Who should attend?

Multi-sector practitioners including health, housing, social care, education, criminal justice, call centre operators, private, voluntary and public sector workers and community members, who are in contact and work with people who have ASD.


Participants will gain 6 NQF credit points at Level 4 by completing a workbook of tasks that are assessed against the set learning outcomes.

Related courses:

SFA: Suicide First Aid LITE, MHFA, ASIST, safeTALK

This entry was posted in Courses. Bookmark the permalink.