Alaska’s death is ambiguous in its conclusion – neither Pudge nor the reader knows whether her untimely death was an accident or suicide. From Alaska’s erratic behavior and Pudge’s and the Colonel’s research, it appears that Alaska was suffering from some form of depression. In the United States, approximately 11% of people below the age of 18 have depressive disorder. Many of those like Alaska go undiagnosed because the research into adolescent depression has only come forth in recent years.
One of the major issues with treating depression in teens is that it often goes unnoticed or is written off as moodiness. Fortunately, numerous studies have been conducted in the years since Looking for Alaska's 2005 publication, and more awareness has been raised surrounding teen depression. A recent study completed by the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that the best course of action for treating adolescents with depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Scientists are currently working on methods to improve the treatment of depression. Perhaps one day the length of treatment will be shortened from weeks and years to hours in the hope of preventing further suicides; perhaps generational depression will be treated with gene therapy. There is still much to be explored, but understanding depression in adolescents remains one of science’s top priorities.