‘Dear Evan Hansen’ accurately portrays mental health struggles among teenagers


Marc Platt Productions; Perfect World Pictures

Anxiety-ridden student Evan Hansen stares off into the distance in his high school’s hallway.

Sahana Unni, Reporter

On a dark school night, Evan Hansen sits on a swing next to Alana Beck as she describes her struggle with mental health. As she begins singing, she shows him how he is not the only one working through anxiety and depression, revealing to Evan that he is not alone in his struggles. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” shows the emotional struggle of high schoolers as it relates to social media and depression, but the plot of the movie based on the Broadway musical is inherently problematic. 

With an exceptional portrayal of teenagers’ mental health and the influence of social media, “Dear Evan Hansen” shows the importance of thinking before you post, and how easily rumors can spiral out of control. The depiction of severe anxiety and depression in the movie normalizes a sympathetic portrayal of mental illness and shows that one does not have to feel guilty about taking medication to help. It also shows how personal struggles can be amplified by social media.

The movie surrounds Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) attempting to console the family of Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) after he commits suicide, through pretending that Connor and him were best friends. “Dear Evan Hansen” did not make Evan an innocent character, but as one that made mistakes and learned from them.

“Dear Evan Hansen” opened as a Broadway stage musical in December 2016, and has since become a sensation, winning six Tony awards and a Grammy. The musical film adaptation was released Sept. 24. Once released, this movie was deemed problematic due to the character flaws of Evan and the superficial way Mr. Platt portrays anxiety, according to a review in The New York Times

The representation of life after losing a loved one to depression was also very thoughtful. It showed just how damaging blaming the family for suicide can really be. 

From the diverse cast to the catchy songs, the “Dear Evan Hansen” movie lived up to its Broadway origin. 

The portrayal of Connor was very important, and the movie missed the mark. Connor was depicted as the stereotypical depressed kid, with little more said about his character. Alana Beck (Amandla Stenberg) was also a cliché of an anxious teenager with limited depth. 

The audience this movie was intended for was clearly high schoolers, and portrayed them somewhat accurately. Mr. Platt, who originated the title role on Broadway, is now 28 but the editing did an adequate job at making him look like he could be a senior in high school. When Evan was intended to look depressed, though, it looked like the producers removed some of the editing, which clearly showed that he was not near the age of a senior. 

The overall message of the movie is “you are not alone,” and it shows the value of checking up on classmates and feeling a little less lonely, because there are so many struggling with mental health behind closed doors.