Name: Elspeth McKendrick
Died: August 15, 2014
Age at death: 16
Cause of death: Suicide
Location: Bury, Greater Manchester, UK
Elspeth McKendrick was a geeky teenage girl who loved Sherlock and Doctor Who and was a fan of Albert Einstein. A prefect at her school, she was a bookworm who always had a book in her school bag, and she had scored several A*s in her GCSEs. At sixteen, she had already been accepted for a place at Manchester College of Art. She loved cinematography and was artistic and creative.
Elspeth was happy to be eccentric and she had a small circle of friends. But at fourteen years old she had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and she could not come to terms with her diagnosis. Her parents pointed out that successful movie directors had been diagnosed with Asperger's; they gave her a book that was meant to explain Asperger's to teenagers and tried to focus on the positives. But Elspeth became increasingly depressed.
After her diagnosis, Elspeth felt very alone and felt she couldn't confide in her friends about what was bothering her, especially since she did not have a best friend. She wanted to "fit in". She was worried that her counselor was talking to her parents behind her back, and she felt as though she were being observed like a goldfish in a bowl.
Before she hanged herself, Elspeth left a note apologizing to family and friends.
Editor's Note: Elspeth's story is unusual in that the prejudice that killed her was not prejudice directed against her by someone else. Instead, Elspeth's own self-directed prejudice caused her to withdraw into depression and eventually suicide, despite her parents' evident desire to help her. Processing internalized prejudice is a struggle many autistic people face. It is a product of being born into a world where disability is seen as shameful.
Elspeth was the sort of girl who would not want to be known as autistic. She was autistic, yes, but she was so much more than that. She was a human being, a neighbor, a friend, an up-and-coming artist who loved books and films. In a world where disability in general and autism in particular are accepted parts of human life, Elspeth's autism would have been little more than a footnote–a quirk, a difference, something that might need to be taken into account, perhaps, but not a cause for shame or fear. She would have been a perfectly normal, nerdy, artistic, intelligent Aspie girl on her way to art school.
A* grade pupil hanged herself after being diagnosed with mild autism
Schoolgirl, 16, hanged herself weeks after her GCSEs because she was still struggling to cope with Asperger's diagnosis