Dear Evan Hansen” Feature (Part Two of Two): Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention

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Kendall Dexter, Staff Writer

Mental health is a consistent issue and topic of relevance in the world today. When it comes to disorders like anxiety and depression, the conversation is often delayed. These can be challenging topics to discuss. However, the plot of the musical, book, and, now, film, “Dear Evan Hansen” destigmatizes mental health issues. The story follows a high school teen, Evan Hansen, as he navigates the challenges of fitting in, making friends, beginning new relationships, and moving on, all while battling anxiety and depression. The film came out on the twenty-fourth of September this year and is allowing these significantly important topics to resurface within our communities. 

 

Mental Health on the Set of “Dear Evan Hansen”:

Not only does the film highlight experiences regarding depression and anxiety, but the film’s main actor, Ben Platt, has also encountered various obstacles regarding his own mental health while playing the character of Evan Hansen both on stage and screen. In a Rolling Stone article Platt states, “Physically, of course, but also just living in that space mentally and emotionally, and playing somebody who’s even more anxious than I am — and I’m already a very anxious person who deals with a lot of self-hatred. It’s not the funnest mind-space to be in. I felt like I had to put my own emotional life or well-being, my own evolution as a person, kind of on the back burner.” With this statement, it is demonstrated that although Platt has dedicated significant time and effort to develop this character, truly tapping into Evan Hansen’s mindset was quite a physically and emotionally demanding task. Platt performs this character so flawlessly that audiences may not realize the significance of the work it took him as an actor to portray this anxious and depressed character. This is particularly compelling considering the fact that he had not been able to fully combat his own personal mental challenges prior to playing this role. Platt also explains, (after shooting the last scene in the movie) “I hugged everybody, I went home and took a little nap, and then I shaved my head and pierced my ear because I needed some kind of ritualistic ‘I’m not him anymore’ — just really letting that go and reclaiming myself and my body. I had done everything I could dream of to do in this part. I felt so ready for it to be over.” Although Platt acknowledges the influence that this musical has had on his career, he explains that when this project was considered a wrap, it was relieving to move on from this point in his life. 

 

Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention:

Depression:

It is significantly important, particularly today, to be informed about depression and suicide. Spreading awareness for these topics could save someone’s life. There are many misconceptions about depression. Some of these are that Depression is “all in your head,” “not a big deal,” or “a normal part of life.” However, this is anything but accurate. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain, stopping messages from traveling through your brain properly. The chemicals that are most frequently found to be out of balance are serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters stabilize and maintain a person’s mood. Because of this chemical imbalance, those suffering from depression can begin to withdraw from their families and develop thoughts of suicide. All of this can lead to physical issues regarding appetite, headaches, insomnia, and others. Unlike many may believe, those with depression cannot just “suck it up” or “get over it.” They are battling a real, chronic condition, causing obstacles that require time and consistent treatment to manage. Other aspects to note about depression are that anyone can experience depression and not everyone encounters depression in the same way as others. Mental health challenges are extremely personal and differ significantly from person to person.

Suicide Prevention: 

  • Be aware and recognize the symptoms:
    • Feeling angry
    • Fatigue/oversleeping
    • Loss of interest
    • Loss of memory
    • Changes in appetite
    • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps
    • Loss of motivation
    • Guilt
  • Reach out and check up on your family and friends
    • It is always important to make sure that your friends and family are okay. Simply asking, “How are you?” or “Are you Doing Okay?” or letting them know that if they need anything, you are there, can be life-changing for someone experiencing thoughts of suicide.
    • If someone you know is struggling, it is useful to ask them about how to help. Sometimes taking action without asking the person first can cause additional problems, but showing this person that you trust them enough to give suggestions about how to help them can be validating. 
  • Listen 
    • When someone you know confides in you for advice or simply a shoulder to lean on, be sure to listen. This makes a significant difference as it can allow someone who feels overlooked to feel heard and understood.

Anxiety:

Anxiety can be another extremely challenging obstacle to live with. The film adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen” references this obstacle consistently throughout its storyline. Similar to many other mental illnesses, there are many misconceptions surrounding anxiety disorders. Some examples include: “suppressing thoughts of anxiety will make it more manageable,” “medication is the only treatment for anxiety,” “there is not much that can be done about anxiety, some people just worry too much,” and “if you live an all-around healthy lifestyle, your anxiety will go away.” All of these statements are contradictory and inaccurate. Suppressing your true thoughts and feelings only leads to the build-up of anxious thoughts; medication is one option to manage anxiety, but therapy can be significantly helpful for those suffering from anxiety; and, no, your anxiety will not necessarily disappear completely if you implement healthy eating habits, consistent exercise, etc. into your lifestyle. Having anxiety does not impact your worth, and although a challenging obstacle to face, there are ways to ensure that anxiety does not get in the way of living a successful and happy life.

 

Different Types of Anxiety: There are many different types of anxiety, and all are different from person to person. Depending on the type,  there are various treatments that can be utilized to manage anxiety. Here are a few basic definitions of different types of anxiety. Anxiety is a significantly complex disorder, however, the following briefly describes each.

  • Social anxiety
    • Having a fear of being criticized or embarrassed in everyday situations
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
    • Feeling anxious most days and Worrying that lasts at least 6 months
  • Panic disorder
    • Uncontrollable Panic Attacks
  • Separation anxiety
    • Fear of being away from a place or person for a long time
  • Selective mutism
    • Being unable to speak in social situations including people that are not close relatives (classmates, strangers, distant relatives) 

Symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Feeling nervous or irritable
  • Having a sense of impending danger
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble sleeping
  • difficulty concentrating

 

Mental Health Resources:

Remember, you are not alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You are valid. You are important. You are appreciated.