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Mental Health, Suicide, and Autism

Mental Health, Suicide, and Autism

ACT’s 2024 Focus on Research Conference

Special discounted rates for educators in British Columbia. View details here.

Sponsored by

Provincial Outreach Program for Autism & Related Disorders

Presented by Anne V. Kirby, PhD, OTR/L, Jessica Schwartzman, PhD, Lisa Morgan, M.Ed. CAS, Rachel Mosely, PhD, & Shari Jager-Hyman, PhD

Panel presentation by Bobbi Duncan-Ishcomer, Alex Jacobs, Rachel Kripke-Ludwig, and Izabelle Stevens

Panel presentations moderated by Grace Iarocci, PhD & Elina Birmingham, PhD

Thursday, April 4 & Friday, April 5, 2024

Vancouver, B.C. & Web Streaming Live

Recording available for two weeks after the conference, for all registrants.

Research practitioners, which include Autistic Adults, will illustrate why we need to learn about mental health and suicide within the Autistic community. Learn the suicide risk factors and warning signs as well as practical strategies and resources to identify and support those in crisis.

Mental Health Crisis Resources

In Canada, the Suicide Crisis Hotline can be phoned or texted at 9-8-8.

In B.C. and Yukon, Crisis Centre Chat provides an online chat from Noon to 1am

More resources can be found on this article from AutismBC: I’m autistic and in mental health crisis. What can I do?

Friends of ACT save 10% off event registrations, join here!

Sign in to use your 10% Friends of ACT Discount, or register here.


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Event Details

Suicide is a leading cause of premature death in autistic people. Autistic individuals are significantly more likely to think about and attempt suicide than members of the general population. However, most mental health professionals do not feel confident about identifying suicide risk, particularly signs of acute risk (i.e., warning signs), and intervening when autistic individuals are in crisis.

In bringing Anne, Lisa, Rachel, Jessica, and Shari to Vancouver, our goal is to improve knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy related to recognizing risk factors and warning signs of suicide risk in Autistic individuals, and identifying appropriate crisis supports and resources for this population.

In this workshop, participants will learn:

  • From Autistic adults with lived experience
  • Why we need to talk about mental health and suicide in the Autistic community
  • The importance of reframing responsibilities and creating culturally safe clinical settings
  • Why school drop-out rates are high among autistic youth and what to do to address this issue
  • The functions of self-injury (i.e., the needs it fulfills, and that self-injury may be suicidal or non-suicidal)
  • About the research related to mental health needs that may be associated with suicide risk and the efficacy of adapted Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • About the Autism Resource “Warning Signs of Suicide: Considerations for the Autism Community
  • Next steps as family members, Autistic community members, and professionals

Anne V. Kirby, PhD, OTR/L

Dr. Anne Kirby is an occupational therapist and researcher currently studying suicide prevention needs in the autistic community. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Utah in the Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies, with an adjunct role in the Department of Psychiatry and Huntsman Mental Health Institute. She is a principal investigator with the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE). She currently leads an NIH-funded research project in partnership with autistic community members in AASPIRE about suicide prevention for the autistic community. She has also conducted studies on other needs among the autistic community and their families, as well as suicide risk and prevention in other populations.

Jessica Schwartzman, PhD

Dr. Jessica Schwartzman is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine of USC and Director of the Training and Research to Empower NeuroDiversity (TREND) Lab at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The TREND Lab investigates risks for adverse mental health outcomes in neurodivergent people and their families and partners with community members to develop treatments, with a new research line on mental health outcomes in neurodivergent Latino youth. Dr. Schwartzman is a sibling of an autistic young man with intellectual disability and passionate about participatory research that merges self-advocate, family, and provider perspectives to improve mental healthcare for neurodivergent people.

Lisa Morgan, M.Ed. CAS

Lisa Morgan is a consultant specializing in crisis supports and suicide prevention for autistic people. Lisa is founder and co-chair of the Autism and Suicide Prevention Workgroup and has led the development of several autism specific resources for communicating and supporting autistic people in crisis.  A self-advocate with a passion for strengths-based solutions, Lisa has authored several books, articles, and resources all available on her website: www.autismcrisissupport.com. She is a community council member of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together) a group of autistic adults participating in research. Lisa has a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching, is a Certified Autism Specialist, a peer reviewer of the online journal, Autism in Adulthood, and owner of Lisa Morgan Consulting LLC. She is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work degree. 

Rachel Mosely, PhD

Dr Rachel Moseley completed her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, UK, and is now Principle Academic in Psychology at Bournemouth University. While her early work focused on brain function and connectivity, her research now centres on issues facing autistic adults, most notably mental ill-health and suicidality. Dr Moseley is herself autistic, and is passionate about participatory research, positive representation of neurodivergent people, and public engagement to increase acceptance and kindness around neurodiversity. 

Shari Jager-Hyman, PhD

Shari Jager-Hyman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Broadly, Dr. Jager-Hyman studies the development and implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs) for suicide prevention. In particular, Dr. Jager-Hyman focuses on tailored approaches to suicide prevention for autistic individuals developed in collaboration with autistic partners.

Virtual Panelists for Day 1, Session 5

Bobbi Duncan-Ishcomer

Bobbi Duncan-Ishcomer (they/them) is a queer, two-spirit, Autistic Mental Health Peer Specialist living in Austin, TX. In addition to their work as an MHPS, Bobbi is also currently serving as a Community Partner with AASPIRE, and loves being a part of ongoing research. Bobbi has a degree in Linguistics and Russian Language from The University of Texas at Austin and did their thesis work on Language and Identity in Disability and LGBTQ+ communities. When not working to dismantle systems of oppression, Bobbi loves hammock camping with their wife and dogs, turning lumber into furniture, memorizing esoteric geography facts, and playing sorcerers Dungeons & Dragons. 

Alex Jacobs

Alex Jacobs is an autistic self-advocate and researcher. She was a speaker on the Vanderbilt Ethics Grand Round panel on the inclusion of autistic self-advocates in research and has been featured as a ‘Hotline Hero’ for her work on the US National Suicide Prevention Hotline. During her free time, Alex practices self-care by playing board games and cooking. 

Rachel Kripke-Ludwig

Rachel Kripke-Ludwig (she/hers) is a nonspeaking, autistic advocate who will attend Arizona State University in the Fall. She attends Open Mind School in Menlo Park. She is a Community Partner in the AASPIRE Community Based Participatory Research Group. She is also on the Community Advisory Council of CommunicationFIRST, the only nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people who cannot rely on speech to communicate. She is a frequent speaker on neurodiversity and the rights of nonspeaking autistics. To learn more please see, Rachel Tells It All

Izabelle Stevens

Izabelle Stevens is an autistic, neurodiverse advocate and certified Social Support Worker. Her strong sense of justice and passion for the betterment of services and treatment for the disabled and neurodiverse community has led her to become the Youth Representative on the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Minister’s Advisory Council for Children and Youth with Support Needs; and a board member for the Family Support Insititute of British Columbia. Izabelle’s experience with ACT includes being a member of the Self-Injurious Behaviour Committee. Izabelle uses her lived experience to advocate in her community and is also a member of the SD46 Accessibility Committee. 


April 4: Grace Iarocci, PhD

Grace Iarocci, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University, and the Director of the Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab. A registered psychologist, Dr. Iarocci works closely with government and community agencies in BC to disseminate research information on ASD and influence policy on ASD and other developmental disabilities. Grace has a particular interest in researching quality of life issues among families living with ASD.

April 5: Elina Birmingham, PhD

Elina Birmingham, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Educational Psychology area of the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University (SFU). She completed her PhD in Cognitive Psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2008, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the California Institute of Technology, and Simon Fraser University. The overarching goal of her research is to better understand and support children, youth and adults on the Autism Spectrum.

Day 1: Thursday, April 4, 2024

8:15 am – 9:00 am
 (In-person Only) Registration

9:00 am – 10:00 am
 Session 1 – Lisa Morgan & Anne Kirby

10:00 am – 10:15 am
 Morning Break

10:15 am – 11:15 am
 Session 2 – Jessica Schwartzman & Anne Kirby

11:15 am – 11:30 am
Morning Break 2

11:30 am – 12:30 pm
 Session 3 – Lisa Morgan & Rachel Moseley

12:30 pm – 1:15 pm

1:15 pm – 2:15 pm
 Session 4 – Shari Jager-Hyman

2:15 pm – 2:30 pm
Afternoon Break

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Session 5 – Panel Period: Bobbi Duncan-Ishcomer, Alex Jacob, Rachel Kripke-Ludwig, Izabelle Stevens

Day 2: Friday, April 5, 2024

8:15 am – 9:00 am
 (In-person Only) Registration

9:00 am – 10:00 am
 Session 1 – Rachel Mosely

10:00 am – 10:15 am
 Morning Break

10:15 am – 11:15 am
 Session 2 – Jessica Schwartzman

11:15 am – 11:30 am
Morning Break 2

11:30 am – 12:30 pm
 Session 3 – Jessica Schwartzman, Anne Kirby, Lisa Morgan, and Shari Jager-Hyman

12:30 pm – 1:15 pm

1:15 pm – 2:15 pm
 Session 4 – Jessica Schwartzman, Anne Kirby, Lisa Morgan, and Shari Jager-Hyman

2:15 pm – 2:30 pm
Afternoon Break

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Session 5 – Panel: Future of Research: Lisa Morgan, Shari Jager-Hyman, Anne Kirby, Rachel Mosely, Jessica Schwartzman

For in-person audience: Coffee and light snacks will be provided at registration and morning breaks.

Please bring/buy your own lunch.

Day 1

9:00 AM- 10:00 AM | Lisa Morgan & Anne Kirby

  • Experiences of an Autistic adult
  • Why we need to talk about mental health and suicide in the Autistic community
  • The emotional impact of support/lack of support (e.g., unintentional harm is still harm)

10:15 AM – 11:15 AM | Jessica Schwartzman & Anne Kirby

  • Research:
    • Anxiety and depression—what does this look like for Autistic people?
    • Mental health needs that may lead to suicide
    • 20-years of data and other population-based research

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM | Lisa Morgan & Rachel Moseley

  • Suicide and social connectedness – looking outside of the individual for causes of suicide
    • Culture and cultural competency in clinical settings
    • Creating a safe culture where people do not need to camouflage

1:15 PM- 2:15 PM | Shari Jager-Hyman

  • Qualitative experiences with autistic youth & why school drop-out rates are high
  • Autistic youth and adults: Partnership and process; and intervention: The Safety Planning Intervention

2:30 PM- 3:30 PM | Bobbi Duncan-Ishcomer, Alex Jacobs, Rachel Kripke-Ludwig, & Izabelle Stevens

Grace Iarocci, Moderator

Virtual Panel presentations from Autistic advocates, sharing their lived experience.

Day 2

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM | Rachel Moseley

  • Awareness of the relationship between self-injury and suicide risk, and some of the common threads which may link the two – like psychopathology and emotional dysregulation
  • Understanding self-injury which can be suicidal or non-suicidal
  • Understanding the functions of self-injury – the needs it fulfills

10:15 AM- 11:15 AM | Jessica Schwartzman

  • Lessons from a Neurodivergent Advisory Team
  • Adapted Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Autism

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM | Jessica Schwartzman, Anne Kirby, Lisa Morgan, and Shari Jager-Hyman

  • Autism suicide prevention working group and crisis supports
  • Warning Signs of Suicide: Considerations for the Autism Community
  • Scenarios

1:15 PM- 2:15 PM | Jessica Schwartzman, Anne Kirby, Lisa Morgan, and Shari Jager-Hyman

  • Continued from session 3

2:30 PM- 3:30 PM | Panel Presentation moderated by Elina Birmingham
Lisa Morgan, Anne Kirby, Shari Jager-Hyman, Rachel Moseley, and Jessica Schwartzman

  • What we know and bring in; general theory; where we need to go as a field, including personal experience.


Early Bird Rate until March 1, 2024: $325

Regular rate starting March 2, 2024: $375

Family Members, Autistic Adults & Students

Early Bird Rate until March 1, 2024: $275

Regular rate starting March 2, 2024: $325

Due to popular demand, registration has been extended until 11:59 pm PDT on Monday, April 1st

Group Discounts

Registering 3 or more attendees at a time? Receive a 10% discount!

Educators Rate

Special rates for British Columbia educators. View details here.

Early Bird: $225; Regular Rate: $275

Friends of ACT Receive 10% Off

Join here to become a Friend of ACT. This FREE program keeps you up to date with all the latest events and resources from ACT, and provides a 10% discount on a single ticket for all events.


ACT wants to ensure equitable access to all of our events. Bursaries are available where registration cost is a barrier. Full bursaries are available for Indigenous people/people who work at organizations that support Indigenous people. You are encouraged to apply for bursaries as soon as possible as funds are limited.

Apply by completing ACT’s Bursary Form before March 25, 2024. If you identify as Indigenous, or work for an Indigenous organization, complete our Bursary Form for Indigenous Communities.

Donate to our bursary fund.

Autism Funding

If you wish to use your child’s Autism Funding to pay for your registration, ACT can invoice the Autism Funding Branch directly. If you are paying in advance to be reimbursed, you must contact the Autism Funding Branch for approval first.

For information on how to register with your Autism Funding, visit Workshop Registration Using Autism Funding.

Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre,  
Segal Rooms (Room 1400 – 1430)
515 West Hastings St, Vancouver, BC  

Click to view full map

This venue is readily accessible by public transit. Visit Translink.ca for directions and schedules for the West Coast Express, SkyTrain, SeaBus and bus routes. Please note that parking in downtown Vancouver is costly, but there are several parkades nearby.  

Please note ACT cannot accept responsibility for any expenses incurred by the participant from charges that involve travel, accommodations, or other costs related to attending an ACT event. These are the sole responsibility of the participant as well as all risks associated with non-refundable, non-changeable purchases. ACT strongly recommends that participants purchase cancellation insurance for travel, etc. where possible.  

ACT has negotiated preferred rates at four downtown Vancouver hotels near SFU Harbour Centre. Please visit this page for hotel details including links to directions.

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Focus: Mental health and suicide risk in the Autistic population

For: Parents/caregivers/family members, Autistic youth and adults, friends of Autistic youth and adults, and professionals including educators, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, behaviour analysts, health care providers, and first responders (e.g., Ambulance Attendants, Fire Fighters).

Autism Specific?: Yes

CART captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided at the event.