When i read this question, I realized this sensitive scenario. The asker says he has some kind of autism (just used as an example here). Under normal circumstances I would post an answer, but to be honest I (and probably most of us) don't know whats the right approach for persons with mental disorder. I think it matters a lot if a (for example) depressed or not depressed person asks for help. Often this is not the right place for people who need professional help. It's not unlikely to harm these persons by accident while giving wrong advices.

My suggestion would be to add a reminder, that answers on this site don't replace a therapy in any way and it's highly recommended to get professional help instead if you have a known mental disorder.

P.S.: I'm not blaming people with mental problems in any way. This is a serious concern. If I used wrong or misleading terms, please edit them. I'm not a native english speaker.

  • 1
    edited, so you get the info. Please feel free to correct yourself and edit my edit to remove it :)
    – OldPadawan
    Oct 12, 2017 at 12:36
  • @OldPadawan thanks. I really don't want to use misleading terms on such sensitive topic.
    – Otto V.
    Oct 12, 2017 at 12:38
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    @OldPadawan Mental illness is also acceptable. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_disorder
    – Catija
    Oct 12, 2017 at 12:44
  • maybe another question for english language & usage stack exchange?
    – Otto V.
    Oct 12, 2017 at 12:46
  • Thanks for the timely and very relevant question @Otto V. As you will see here the meta questions about 'professional help' are piling up slowly but steadily, indicating the need for clearer community policy on this topic, and this list includes your current question: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/search?q=Professional+help Oct 12, 2017 at 12:55
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    @OttoV. if you have questions about my autism (you linked to my question :P), ask away. Oct 12, 2017 at 13:12
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    Maybe this can be of help: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1738/1599. From what I know of autism, it influences your interpersonal skills but doesn't come with an acute suicide risk. People with autism, as far as I know, are also often able to learn to 'function normally'. So providing advice on what is considered a 'normal thing to do' doesn't do any harm IMO. I'll write up a more complete answer later.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 12, 2017 at 13:19
  • @Termatinator thanks for beeing open minded. I just want to say that i don't feel comfortable if i have no idea how the asker reacts to my answer. :)
    – Otto V.
    Oct 12, 2017 at 13:21
  • @Termatinator How much harm could a very wrong answer do to you, with regard to your autism? Could it make your autism/related issues much worse?
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 12, 2017 at 13:23
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    @OttoV. you don't have to, just say that in your answer so that I am aware of that. Would it be a possibility to open a new SE site for mental disorders? Oct 12, 2017 at 13:23
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    @Tinkeringbell not really that much (in my case, I have a light version of autism), but I can't speak for someone with a higher version of it. You could say that you don't know much about it (in your answer), or maybe you could open a seperate SE site for people with mental disorders. Maybe you could speak to them in the comments and ask about their disorder Oct 12, 2017 at 13:28
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    @Tinkeringbell I'm not talking specificaly about suicide risk or autism (autism and depression are just examples). Making things worse doesn't always mean it will cause suicide risk.
    – Otto V.
    Oct 12, 2017 at 13:33
  • I'll take that into account when writing an answer :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 12, 2017 at 13:34
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    @OttoV.: But that problem you have with anything. Everything could knowingly or unknowingly make a situation for someone else worse. But specifically for autism related posts, you can note that you dont have autism but hand in how you would handle it, so a tiny chance exists one would grasp the concept by that as Tineringbell allready mentioned. Or maybe someone else having allready solved that autism related problem for himself can answer. Thats most of the time what I expect from posting here and helped me allready quiet a lot.
    – dhein
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:10
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    Just for future reference, phrases like "function normally", "light autism" "higher autism" and the like aren't really appropriate. They're kinda alienating for those of us who have autism that may be considered "higher" by some. Autism is a spectrum and is usually better described by key symptoms that are applicable to whatever situation is being discussed. As far as what would help me when questions are being answered, being super specific, avoiding metaphors/idioms and things that can't be interpreted exactly as they're written is a good start. Though I appreciate this is quite subjective.
    – Groggo
    Oct 23, 2017 at 12:17

3 Answers 3


I'm autistic and I've been the top scoring user on the site for a while now. For myself, personally, I don't see autism as a mental illness or disability... I just process the world differently and honestly that can be something of an advantage in some cases.

I understand your concern, you don't fully understand where someone is coming from because they disclosed their condition and you're worried that the advice you would give normally wouldn't fit their situation and/or cause them harm. That's a good reason to not answer a question, leave it for someone who does understand and can relate.

There's a big difference between asking for medical/psych advice and asking a "normal question" with a complicating factor. Most questions of the form:

How do I do X, when X is hard for me because of Y?

Aren't terrible questions. They're just more specific about why they're asking the question. Including a disclosure about their condition may or may not have even been relevant.

In the case of the linked question, I think it's helpful additional info, but I doubt that it makes the answer meaningfully different. As in, the info about the condition may help some of us relate to the specific situation, but the answer remains pretty much the same.

  • autism is one of the most difficult subjects, even I don't fully understand it, and I'm one myself Oct 12, 2017 at 18:20
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    @Termatinator it is a really broad diagnosis. I like the saying "If you've met one autistic person, you've met one autistic person."
    – apaul
    Oct 12, 2017 at 18:22
  • Also, do you think it might be a good idea if someone makes a seperate SE site about people with mental disorders . I think that that would be very helpful Oct 12, 2017 at 18:25
  • @Termatinator There have been a few Area 51 proposals, but none of them really took off. I could see them being useful, but they seemed to have some scope problems because it's a broad topic and different communities have different needs.
    – apaul
    Oct 12, 2017 at 18:29
  • true, what would you suggest? Oct 12, 2017 at 18:33
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    @Termatinator I'm not sure, it looks like a lot of the questions that would get posted to a site like that fit here fairly well
    – apaul
    Oct 12, 2017 at 18:35
  • you're right, but some people here stated that they are scared to answer such questions. That's why I think it would be smart to have some professionals around Oct 12, 2017 at 18:37
  • @Termatinator a site specific to Autism Spectrum was proposed, if I remember correctly, but I think that one failed for lack of critical mass (not enough interest/users) Personally I think a site like that could be useful, but only if the user base was really committed and involved.
    – apaul
    Oct 12, 2017 at 18:38
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Oct 12, 2017 at 18:39
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    @Termatinator eh... We seem to be doing pretty well with educating people who worry about these questions.
    – apaul
    Oct 12, 2017 at 18:39
  • maybe, I do not know if any of my advice will be of good use, but I'll always try to help. Especially in this subject Oct 12, 2017 at 18:45

With all respect, I think you are somewhat taking your concerns too far.

I have Aspergers which falls under the same label and I feel somewhat offended about reducing it to being "mentally ill" The OP even linked to a wiki article that gave quiet a handful of terms better fitting than "mentally ill". But never mind that one. I don't get where you make the connection from autism to risks of suicide. Yeah in both cases one needs professional help. I can't say much about the professional help one with depression and suicidal intentions would get.

But I can tell you, someone who has a diagnosis and can tell you what kind of autism he has, is very likely aware of the fact of how, or at least that, it influences that person, and probably also is getting or at least got professional help.

I don't know exactly what the thing about PDDNOS is, but just by reading his post, I related to the thoughts he is struggling with and just looking his wiki link up showed that it has connections to Asperger's.

But still I was not sure enough, so I asked for clarification in the comments... That is the usual Stack Exchange procedure, can't see anything worrisome about that.

Also very early on, on this platform, I tried to figure out if we planned to support it (I have Asperger's, is my contribution even gonna help for this private beta?) and my impression so far is that this site is a real magnet for autists.

So, yeah you are right so far, that we need professional help, but not because we are in an unstable state of mind in general, but because we perceive our surroundings differently and need help to get an idea how that's different from the perception of neurotypicals.

For that reason there are tags like or . They indicate that here is the source of the question related to our different perceiving hence, if you have no grasp how that might affect the topic, refrain from answering. But not being able to answer is not a reason to default close a post.

And while I somewhat agree on this specific one, that it's a bit opinion-based in its current state, with a bit help to clarify what OP wants to ask it can be a 100% valid question.

  • I already said that I'm definitely not linking autism with risk of suicide. That has no relation in any way. Also I'm not saying that everyone with autism or something else should prefer professional help over asking here. I'm not generalizing here. I don't want to offend anyone.
    – Otto V.
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:02
  • I did not link the article (someone edited my question, but i was very happy with the result), I don't feel offended, but would mental disorder be a better term? Oct 12, 2017 at 14:02
  • @OttoV.: I'm fine too, just wanted to leave that note as your post is worded very unfavorable ;) So far whats the point of thsi post then?
    – dhein
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:04
  • @dhein depression might be the better example for my question. If a depressed person has some ip problem, you can't simply say "take it with ease, shit happens". The question of Termatinator is just the one which brought this question to my mind. I guess i should rephrase my question if it's that misleading.
    – Otto V.
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:08
  • @OttoV.: In that regard I think your post would be just a duplicate.
    – dhein
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:12
  • The suicide confusion is my fault. I linked to an answer making a difference between acute psychological problems (such as a suicide risk), and more 'mild' problems. I'm not an expert on autism, but as far as I know it falls under the more mild problems (not saying it's not a real problem, just for 'rating' purposes using serious and mild)... hope I explained better this time
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:20
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    @Tinkeringbell: Actually it wasn't even you. I was just reading the depression part and thinking about all the suicide references I read here already. And then feeling somewhat offended by that link between the 2 topics. Well my therapist usually calls it living in another dimension while being able to learn living in both. so being a mild problem is somewhat fitting but drastically summarizing.
    – dhein
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:31
  • But my point simply is: I for my self am very carefull with suggestion I'm getting anyways, as most people giving me advice can't do so in a for me usefull way without me clarifying and therefor it is very unlikely to cause harm. A very bad advice would probably make me laugh and let it go, while a unclear advice would be the worst thing ending in an for the reader annoying comment tail. And as far I can tell I'm not a exception with that regards
    – dhein
    Oct 12, 2017 at 14:40
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    +1 well put. I also edited your post a bit. If I messed anything up feel free to edit or roll-back.
    – apaul
    Oct 12, 2017 at 15:55

I think in the case of autism, and possibly a couple of other mental particularities, there are some nuances in which to approach certain situations. Some things that might would for 'neurotypicals', won't be effective for these cases and vice verse.

Very much like you might expect this to work for different cultures. In some cultures certain approaches are more effective than others. Both things have their quirks, weirdnesses and such. So why not handle it the same way?

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