Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”

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Soto, G. (2003). The Afterlife (Kindle edn.). Clarion Books.

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The concept of death as the complete cessation of existence and the ultimate loss of self has always been viewed as one of the most feared yet undeniably the most curious phenomena. Pondering the nature of death, the ways in which it might end, from ill fortune to suicide, and the possibility of the afterlife encourages rather insightful discoveries about oneself and one’s perceptions of reality hidden deep beneath the veneer of socially accepted frame of thinking. In his book, “The Afterlife,” Gary Soto (2003) scrutinizes the challenges to teen mental health by portraying the protagonist observing from a side perspective the challenges faced by teenagers and often leading to severe depression and suicide.

The first-person perspective of the narrative allows Soto (2003) not only to contemplate the problem of depression in teenagers as one of the core factors leading to mental health issues, but also to invite the reader to the discussion of the subject matter. Namely, Soto (2003) portrays the depressive mindset of one of the protagonists, Crystal, who is eventually driven to suicide. To his credit, Soto (2003) avoids being overly dramatic when addressing the issue of suicide directly, which is an admittedly difficult and quite tricky task given the necessity to portray the events through the prism of the lead character and not the third-person perspective. As a result, the contemplating nature of the key events’ description adds to the tension within the novel, depicting the narrator as an empathetic yet flawed and, thus, relatable character.

Remarkably, in its discussion of issues encountered by teenagers, particularly, mental health concerns, “The Afterlife” also scrutinizes the problem of suicide directly. Tough the title of the novel hints quite unambiguously at the possibility of discussing the issues associated with death and the related ideas, venturing into the dark realm of self-harm and suicide is, in fact, a rather daring step for a book aimed at teenagers. However, Soto (2003) deals with the issue masterfully, addressing the problem of suicide delicately and at the same time without unnecessary embellishments. For instance, while tackling the grim topic, Soto (2003) mentions casually the protagonist’s jealousy: “I was next to her and I didn’t give a shit whether she had two boyfriends or ten. In fact, I was mad at them because one of them – maybe both of them – had led her to kill herself” (Soto, 2003). Though the emotion of jealousy toward a person that has died by suicide could be perceived as petty, Soto (2003) chooses to include it into the narrative, thus, making the lead character more flawed, humane, and, therefore, ultimately relatable.

da Rosa, G. S., Andrades, G. S., Caye, A., Hidalgo, M. P., de Oliveira, M. A. B., & Pilz, L. K. (2019). Thirteen Reasons Why: The impact of suicide portrayal on adolescents’ mental health. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 108, 2-6. Web.

Representing the tragic death of Crystal as perceived by the lead character, the novel sheds light on the perception of the world that may lead to the gradual development of depression and eventually, the desire to end one’s life. Specifically, Soto (2003) manages to render the devastating and nearly suffocating nature of depression resulting from the challenges of finding one’s identity and adjusting to the challenges of adulthood perfectly. From the choice of words in depicting the emotional experiences of the narrator and the supporting character, to the description of the setting to the unique character arcs, the novel offers an emotional journey that allows one to rediscover one’s identity.

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Moreover, the novel also allows the reader to come to grips with the idea of mortality. Although the specified concept might seem s not quite useful and, perhaps, even harmful to teenagers that experience suicidal ideation, the perspective that Soto (2003) provides is not that of contempt or reproach, but that one of compassion, sympathy, and understanding. As a result, the reader does not feel shunned for experiencing depression (da Rosa et al., 2019). Instead, Soto (2003) offers the perspective that invites the reader on the path of self-reflection and, ultimately, healing. Additionally, the concept of mortality of others is the notion that Soto (2003) manages to introduce masterfully to his readers so that they could embrace it and accept it properly. As a result, while leaving the place to grieve the loss of loved ones, Soto (2003) also helps the reader to discover the opportunity to heal by revisiting memories while being ready to embrace the future. The specified idea is particularly evident in the final line of the novel: “She flew at my side, southward toward what, I now knew, is called the afterlife” (Soto, 2003). Showing that the people with whom one develops close relationships do not vanish without a trace but continue living in one’s memories, Soto (2003) introduces the audience to a seemingly trite yet vital lesson of coping with depression and suicidal ideation.

Thus, the book does a stellar job at humanizing the target audience and representing their problems, which might seem as trivial and insignificant to adults, in the way that teenagers have to face them. As a result, the seemingly innocuous issues become representative of the nature of teen depression and even the causes of teen suicide. Tackling the issue directly and refusing to avoid uncomfortable or controversial subjects, the novel represents an honest and direct portrayal of challenges faced by teenagers. As a result, “The Afterlife” serves as a unique and thoughtful insight into the problem of growing up and introduces solutions both for its young and adult readers.

Reference

da Rosa, G. S., Andrades, G. S., Caye, A., Hidalgo, M. P., de Oliveira, M. A. B., & Pilz, L. K. (2019). Thirteen Reasons Why: The impact of suicide portrayal on adolescents’ mental health. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 108, 2-6. Web.

Soto, G. (2003). The Afterlife (Kindle edn.). Clarion Books.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, November 17). Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/teen-depression-and-suicide-in-soto-the-afterlife/

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, November 17). Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”. https://psychologywriting.com/teen-depression-and-suicide-in-soto-the-afterlife/

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"Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”." PsychologyWriting, 17 Nov. 2022, psychologywriting.com/teen-depression-and-suicide-in-soto-the-afterlife/.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”'. 17 November.

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PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”." November 17, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/teen-depression-and-suicide-in-soto-the-afterlife/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”." November 17, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/teen-depression-and-suicide-in-soto-the-afterlife/.


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PsychologyWriting. "Teen Depression and Suicide in Soto “The Afterlife”." November 17, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/teen-depression-and-suicide-in-soto-the-afterlife/.