Dear Evan Hansen Is Exactly How Mental Health Should Be Represented


Dear Evan Hansen

Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt, in Dear Evan Hansen is a high school senior with anxiety and depression – something many high schoolers can relate to. This movie, created from the 2015 Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, covers what started as an innocent lie became a story of friendship and finding oneself.

Madison Seckman, Design Editor

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for 2015 musical and 2021 movie Dear Evan Hansen.

I hadn’t been to a movie theater in two years, and I’m so glad that I broke that streak to see Dear Evan Hansen.

This musical, performed on Broadway in 2015, was finally made into a movie and premiered on Sep. 24, 2021. It’s a beautiful story of friendship and family values with a much needed emphasis on mental health.

Typically, finding movies and shows that are relatable for teenagers can be a feat. Luckily, this movie was everything I never knew I craved.

Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) is a socially anxious and depressed high school senior with no friends. He goes to his first day of school with an unmarked white cast on his arm, allegedly due to falling out of a tree, and he meets Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), a violent loner. Connor signs his cast, saying they could both “pretend [they] have friends”. Then, Evan finishes printing a motivational note he had written to himself that also mentions his crush: Connor’s sister, Zoe Murphy (Kaitlyn Dever). 

Connor takes Evan’s note from the printer, reads it, and runs away with it in anger because of the mention of Zoe. A few days later, Connor commits suicide, and his parents find the letter Evan had written. Thinking it was a suicide note, as it was addressed “Dear Evan Hansen,” they approached Evan, and a well-intentioned spiral of lies begins from a non-existent friendship between Connor and Evan.

Although we know Connor and Evan were never friends, it’s easy to see how they could have been, and how Connor’s passing and pretend friendship turned Evan’s life for the better by bringing Evan close to his family – something Evan desired. Evan was in a dark place, and he needed someone to support him; he never knew that support would come from someone who was no longer alive.

While the story is beautiful and stresses the importance of friendship, it definitely has its flaws. The plot can be a bit slow at times, with conversations that are a bit cringey. 

Evan’s love interest can lean a bit on the stalkerish side since he spends a lot of time staring at Zoe without her knowing, singing about watching her at jazz band concerts and staring at her at a school assembly. The whole thing feels a bit demeaning to women – as if he only had a crush on her because she’s pretty and has a nice smile. He doesn’t get to know her until after Connor’s death, but he had a crush on her long before. 

It’s also a bit hard to relate to a movie about high school when the main actor looks his age: 28. Most high schoolers are over 10 years younger than him, and it shows. It’s not uncommon to see a lack of actors who are 18 years old or younger, because it takes time and training to perform so well, and they could physically change a lot in the time it would take to make a sequel. Even so, director Stephan Chbosky could’ve chosen someone who looked a little bit more like a high schooler.

Despite my critiques, however, the movie was certainly worth my time. It brought me to tears.

The song “You Will Be Found” really resonated with me as a person who has been through a number of mental health crises so far. Evan sings this at a memorial for Connor and motivates every student letting them know they “are not alone” and “will be found.” Compiling thousands of social media videos reacting to Evan’s song saying things like, “ I know someone who really needed to hear this today,” was a powerful device for showing how important it is to reach out.

Social media has a lot of impact on high schoolers, and it was great to see it being represented in a positive manner; it was a reminder to all of us that social media can fuel hope just as much as hate.

His singing blasted through the theater, and it was incredibly moving. I felt that I had been found. I related to Evan in a way I had never before with a fictional character. I knew exactly how it felt to go through great suffering and be pulled onto my feet by my community. 

We learn at the end that Evan, just like Connor, had been lost in the sea of high school, depression, and missed connection. Evan had not just slipped and fallen out of the tree; rather, he had let himself go. And there was no one to find and help him after.

But having his brief interaction Connor helped find him, in fact, it was as though Connor had been there to help him up. 

What started as an innocent lie became a story of friendship and finding oneself that resonated with me and is guaranteed to impact everyone who watches it. Evan goes from being “on the outside, always looking in” to being “a little less alone” and, most importantly, “found.”