“Dear Evan Hansen” is Worth a Watch
By Stevan Crary
The lights fade and the audience goes quiet. A musical note is sung, and the movie Dear Evan Hansen officially begins. In September, the Broadway-adapted musical hit theaters, singing out a relevant message to all students alike: “You are not alone.” 
The film was slow between the notes but didn’t fail to strum the strings of the heart. The music is marvelous, especially the vocals by singer-songwriter Ben Platt, who plays the protagonist Evan Hansen. The catchy lyrics seemed to break hard for the dialogue scenes but still vocalized the emotions of students that struggle with mental health and community.
Throughout the story, Evan struggles to interact with other students, his suicidal thoughts, and to cope under the pressure caused by his mental health. “It is extremely difficult for students to come out and talk about mental health problems, and they may not want to tell you,” said a National Alliance on Mental Illness survey respondent. “[T]his is why they are falling behind, missing class, seeming disengaged, etc.” 
Issues previously held against filmmaking, like Ben Platt playing a high school teen, are overcome by the urgency of a story that needs to be told. Students are struggling.
Evan, who occasionally appeared as a stereotyped mentally ill high schooler, is not alone. According to the NAMI survey report on mental health, 59% of students across the board struggle with some form of mental illness, 71% of which are from public or private institutions like Walla Walla University. 
The story felt soft compared to the full magnitude of the issue students face today. There is an ever-growing pressure to perform and do well academically. If student health and community are not in balance, the grave statistics will continue to advance.
It is more important now than ever to realize what students face. “Please be sensitive and understand mental health problems are real problems. Encourage them to find help through the health center and academic advising,” said the NAMI respondent.  If there is one thing to learn from this musical, it is that nobody can find help alone. Finding a connection with someone or a group can lift one’s spirits and prevent more problems. Like Evan, who needed someone to talk to, our campus has free counseling for all students. They can be contacted or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Evan Hansen is worth the shiny penny and doesn’t fail to remind us that we don’t have to fight our secret battles alone.
- Chbosky, Stephen. (Director). (2021). Dear Evan Hansen [Motion picture]. Universal Pictures.
- Gruttaro, D. G., & Crudo, D. C. (2012). Survey Reports | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. www.nami.org. https://bit.ly/2Zd8HiK