Dear Evan Hansen & An Open Discussion on Suicide Awareness

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Dear Evan Hansen & An Open Discussion on Suicide Awareness

A fish leaping out of a cup of water.

A fish leaping out of a cup of water.

Mohamed Hassan

A fish leaping out of a cup of water.

Mohamed Hassan

Mohamed Hassan

A fish leaping out of a cup of water.

Sheridan Rowell

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 For this week’s article, I’ve decided to approach it differently. September is National Suicide Awareness/Prevention Month, with National Suicide Prevention Week taking place September 8 through September 14. There is a stigma in our society when it comes to suicide. People view it as a taboo subject that is not to be discussed, but that is exactly what I want to do. Suicide is a real thing that real people struggle with every day. According to save.org, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide each day, which equals out to one death by suicide every 12 minutes (SAVE). Men are more likely to commit suicide than women, most likely due to how society views emotions in men. Children who are queer/LGBTQ+ are three times more likely than their straight peers to commit suicide. According to sprc.org, American Indians/Alaska Natives have the highest suicide rates in America (SPRC). Suicide is no joke, which is why it is important to showcase in media where multitudes of people can hear about it. An example of media that focuses on suicide is the musical Dear Evan Hansen.

 

At the beginning of the musical, Dear Evan Hansen introduces us to the titular character, Evan Hansen. He is a high school senior who is diagnosed with severe social anxiety. As a coping mechanism, his therapist has instructed him to write letters to himself, detailing in the letters the reasons why he’s going to have a good day. He also has a broken arm and his mother insists that he tries to make friends at school by getting people to sign his cast.

 

Once he gets to school we are introduced to another main character: Connor Murphy. Connor is the “weirdo” of the school and is highly mistreated by his peers and his family. (Although, this does not invalidate what he put his family through as well, as he often acted abusive toward his sister.) Connor starts to talk to Evan in the hallway, but Evan struggles to make conversation due to his anxiety. Connor takes this as a form of making fun of him and pushes Evan to the ground, then leaves.

 

Evan retreats to the computer lab and writes one of his letters. In it he details his thoughts of if anyone would notice if he left as well as his love for Zoe Murphy, Connor’s sister. Once Evan finishes writing, Connor comes in. The two start talking again and Connor signs Evan’s cast. After a short while of conversation, Connor spots Evan’s letter on the printer. He reads it and, due to the mention of his sister, again thinks that Evan is trying to make fun of him. Thus, Connor steals the letter and leaves.

 

Days later, Connor’s parents show up to the school to tell Evan that Connor had killed himself and that they had found Evan’s letter in his pocket. However, they thought that it was a suicide note addressed to Evan from Connor, as all of the letters start out with “Dear Evan Hansen.” Evan is invited to have dinner with the Murphys, where he panics and makes up a lie about him and Connor being best friends. He fabricates a story about the two of them going to an orchard and climbing trees, resulting in Evan falling out of one and breaking his arm. Once he gets home, he and his family friend Jared create fake emails between him and Connor in order to further piece the lie together.

 

Later at school, Evan and his “friends” realize that the memory of Connor is drifting away from people’s minds. Because of this, they decide to create a fundraiser named “The Connor Project” in order to keep his memory alive and to raise money to reopen the orchard that Evan and Connor spent time with each other at in Evan’s lie. The project quickly goes viral and grows support from all over the world.

 

As Evan’s popularity rises, he begins to pay less attention to his friends and mother and gives more attention to his new life with Zoe and the Murphys. This comes back to haunt him, however, once his mother sees that Evan has a “better life” with the Murphys, once Jared is tired of being used, and once Alana, another friend, begins to see inconsistencies within the fake emails.

 

After being confronted, Evan breaks down and decides that he must reveal the truth. Connor, now a voice of persuasion in Evan’s mind, tries to talk him out of it, but Evan just wants to be rid of the situation. Connor eventually persuades him not to come clean; however, once he reminds him that all of his popularity will be gone if he does and he will be only left with himself.

 

In an effort to apologize to Alana for abandoning The Connor Project, he shows her the original “suicide note.” Alana sees this as a chance to reach their fundraising goal and releases it online. This causes people to believe that Connor’s parents are the reason why he killed himself. In the midst of having their lives threatened, Evan visits the Murphys and tells them the truth about the entire situation. They then turn him away and he leaves to go back home.

 

At home, his mother has already recognized the “suicide note” as one of Evan’s self-help letters. She apologizes to him for not being able to see how badly he has been hurting, but he dismisses it as he had been the one deceiving her. He then vaguely reveals that the reason he broke his arm was his jumping out of a tree in order to commit suicide. Evan’s mother tearfully recounts the story of when his father left the both of them, which ends in them agreeing that they will always have each other.

 

The musical jumps to a year later where Evan contacts Zoe in order to apologize, as he has not seen her since the truth came out. They discuss Connor, the lie, and how the Murphys never told anyone the truth. The musical ends with Evan writing another letter to himself, except he accepts himself as he is in this one and reflects on his impact on his community.

 

Many musicals contain elements of suicide, such as Bandstand, Spring Awakening, and Be More Chill, but none revolve around suicide as the main element. Whatever the medium, showing suicide in the media is a way to show people that it’s okay to discuss it. It’s okay to talk about your feelings, no matter who you are.

 

This is the part of the article where I’d usually give a short review of the musical from my perspective, along with telling you that the Original Broadway Cast Recording is available on most streaming services, but I want to take this part to provide some resources (NAMI).

 

*If you think someone is going to hurt themselves, or if you know that a person is in an emergency, dial 911 immediately. Do not hesitate. You could quite literally save their life.

 

*If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are thinking about hurting yourself, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255).

 

*If you are uncomfortable with talking over the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741.

 

*For the Veterans Crisis Line, dial 1-800-273-8255 and then press 1.

 

*For LGBTQ Youth, The Trevor Project Hotline is 1-866-488-7386.

 

“Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found” (Genius).

 

Sources

 

“NAMI.” NAMI

www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/suicide-prevention-awareness-month.

 

“Original Broadway Cast of Dear Evan Hansen – You Will Be Found.” Genius, 3 Feb. 2017, 

genius.com/Original-broadway-cast-of-dear-evan-hansen-you-will-be-found-lyrics.

 

“Racial and Ethnic Disparities.” Racial and Ethnic Disparities | Suicide Prevention Resource 

Center, www.sprc.org/racial-ethnic-disparities.

 

“Suicide Prevention Hotlines and Other Crisis Resources.” SAVE

save.org/find-help/crisis-intervention-hotlines/.

 

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