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Autistic Perspective Series: Mental Health


  • The Intersection of Autism and Mental Health

  • Unmasking Anxiety in Autism

  • Experiences of Autism Acceptance and Mental Health in Autistic Adults

  • Neuroclastic - Mental Health

  • Social Stigma Contributes to Poor Mental Health in the Autistic Community

  • BIPOC face Significant Challenges in Receiving Mental Healthcare

  • Obstacles Black Autistic Individuals Face

  • Autistic LGBTQ+ people report frequent mental health problems

  • Extending the Minority Stress Model to Understand Mental Health Problems Experienced by the Autistic Population

  • Functioning Labels Harm Autistic People


Minority Stress: the additional stress that members of marginalized groups experience because of the prejudice and discrimination they face. The experience of Minority Stress is additive to general stress and can lead to poorer health outcomes compared to individuals that do not experience Minority Stress.Three key factors distinguish Minority Stress from general stress.  Minority stress is (1) unique, (2) chronic, and (3) socially-based.

Masking: Masking involves an autistic person making changes to their behavior to disguise autistic traits and seem more like their non-autistic peers. Another term used for this is camouflaging. Sometimes masking is a conscious choice at that moment. At other times, autistic people may not realize they are masking. For example, masking may become an automatic behavior in certain situations. -Emma Fox, the Autisphere




Jackie Pilgrim (she/her)

Jackie Pilgrim is an Advocate for persons having Epilepsy, Autism, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Mental Illness; Founder of Autism’s Love: The Pilgrimage, Public Speaker, Artist, Poet, Blogger and Parent to a young adult who challenges the stigma of having disabilities. Jackie is currently partnered with the Durham CIT Leadership Collaborative to increase Autism and Intellectual/ Developmental Disability awareness. In 2017, Jackie received an invitation to participate as a panel speaker at the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day Observation in NY, where she spoke on the importance of increasing autism awareness and education for Police Officers and First Responders. Jackie also serves on the Board of Directors for NAMI Durham (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the Mayor’s Committee for Disabled Persons and Jackie is a representative of the National Black Disability Coalition (NBDC) and serves on several committees. Jackie’s goals are to dismantle disability stigma and empower disabled individuals, family members, caregivers, and providers by increasing education and awareness of Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, and Mental Illness from the vantage point of lived experience.

Danny Whitty (he/him)

I am a 35 year old autistic and apraxic man. This means I have trouble coordinating between my brain and body. This means I am overwhelmed by sensory stimuli. This means I have been overlooked by schools and society.

This also means I have a glorious world in my mind!

As a neurodivergent, immigrant, half Asian person, I identify with marginalized groups. That is my inspiration to spread awareness and empathy. I am also still mourning the death of my beloved father. His loss two years ago drives my current reflections on grief and love.

With that said, I relish fun and bizarre humor, exploring the culinary world, roaming in nature, and connecting with people.

Two of my ongoing projects are The Ocean & Us Podcast, where we share the wonder of the ocean and the need for inclusion in enjoying and saving it, and Leo in Bloom Magazine, centered on empathy and featuring diverse voices, including nonspeakers! I am also an advocate with the Spellers & Allies Advocacy Network, have acted as an advisor for the educational guides for The Reason I Jump film, and also contributed to the NeuroClastic Music Media Toolkit and the ACES Talking with Doctors project.

Katelyn Moore (they/them)

Katelyn is a Black, genderqueer, and neurodivergent artivist (artist+activist.) Katelyn believes in the power of art and that environmentally and socially conscious art empowers individuals to find healing via their own hands. As a visual artist and spoken word artist, they create artwork that is inspirational or speaks about social justice issues. As an art therapist and somatic therapist, they are passionate about working with clients who are multicultural and who are members of the LGBTQAAI2S+ community through an intersectionality lens. In their free time, Katelyn is an all around Blerd (Black+nerd) and enjoys playing video games, reading comic books, watching superhero shows and movies, and wishing they had the time for a full DnD campaign.


Hannah Shumaker (she/her/they/them)

Hannah Shumaker is passionate about transforming curiosity into understanding, connection, and collaboration.  The foundation of her work is a belief in the inherent value and of each person's experience, identity, and perspective.  Hannah does not ascribe to deficit models but instead brings a lens of socio-cultural construction of disability, as well as a keen eye for power disparity, to her work.  She honors the identities of each individual and strives to expose the impact of inequality within relationships and structures.  

Hannah brings her own autistic/ADHD experience and insight to issues that may influence ND/NT parenting, partnership, and working relationships.  Her first formal Peer work was in 1995 as a peer sexual health educator with a community-based HIV/AIDS prevention program. In continuing to practice as a Peer Collaborator or coach, Hannah is able to support clients in their own exploratory wellness process without a professional imperative to diagnose or “treat” mental health conditions. Her educational experience includes a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology (UNC-G), graduate certificate in Disability Studies (CUNY), graduate certificate in Counselor Education (NCSU), and ongoing graduate study in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (NCSU). 

Hannah is a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist with training in Nonviolent Communication, Wellness Recovery Action Planning, Advanced Training in Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS), Somatic Abolitionism, Accessibility Auditing, and analysis and construction of sensory-friendly physical spaces.  Hannah is also a graduate of and facilitator for the Ability Leadership Project Disability Justice Activism training with Disability Rights North Carolina.

She volunteers on the Board of Women's Birth and Wellness Center, with The Arc of the Triangle's Human Rights Committee, and as a consultant for the Safe Kids Coalition of Orange/Chatham County as a Child Passenger Safety Technician with Special Needs training.  For many years she was a homestead farmer and educator, although now living in Carrboro, NC, she carries that experience forward in the sensory-friendly therapeutic garden and play space, available on a case-by-case basis.

Hannah believes that ruptures in relationships may be bridged through understanding unmet needs and centering radical equity in shared spaces.  It is only by taking a deeper view of behavior that we are able to gain true understanding and acceptance of individual as well as collective needs.  All needs may be met when we begin with curiosity, grow comprehension and acceptance, and then move forward collaboratively.


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