San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ misses the mark in its portrayal of mental health
The Tony Awards YouTube
Tony Winners Ben Platt and Rachel Bay Jones Open Their Engraved Tony Awards, CC BY 3.0,


“Dear Evan Hansen” is a wake-up call to seek mental health help. Who would have thought, a teenage boy trying to kill himself while singing, would have me speed dial my therapist? It shows viewers the mental toll of social media, especially among adolescents. As we look at the people around us, nobody really knows who struggles with mental health. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” is based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and book by Steven Levenson. It’s a coming-of-age story where Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt, pretends to be friends with a high school suicide victim.


The film starts off with Hansen writing a hopeful letter to himself as a therapy assignment about how being yourself is the most rewarding accomplishment. We could have gotten the same message from a Panda Express fortune cookie but Platt’s voice was a selling factor to stay for the film’s remaining two hours. 

Hansen suffers from social anxiety, so he walks around the halls of his high school like a ghost, with most people seeing right through him, except Connor Murphy, played by Colton Ryan, who proceeds to scream at his face. 

But minus the unnecessary aggression towards Hansen, Murphy makes an effort to connect with him. For example, Hansen broke his arm the previous summer and walked around with a cast but only Murphy cared to sign it. Timing was not in Hansen’s favor as his love letter to himself, in which he also mentions his crush on Murphy’s sister, prints in the school library and lands in the hands of Murphy.

Murphy’s attitude toward Hansen escalates, leaving Hansen paralyzed with fear that Murphy will expose him on social media as he walks away with the letter in his back pocket.  

To Hansen’s relief, the letter is not on social media (yet), but Murphy commits suicide. Drastic transition. 

The transition of scenes is one key detail that made the movie insensitive towards its serious topics. Perhaps the play-version does a better job of spacing out the transitions, but the film fell short. 

Murphy’s parents tell Hansen the devastating news in the principal’s office the following day. They believe Hansen was best friends with Murphy because they found Hansen’s letter to himself in Murphy’s back pocket. The parents think the letter is a suicide note from Murphy addressed to Hansen. 

The Murphy family was taken aback by their son’s tragic death. Their son wouldn’t communicate with them as he got older, and viewers learn this was due to their empty presence in his life. They were only there to take him to rehab. They didn’t take the time to see who he was or what his interests were. They tried to grasp at any little things with somewhat of a connection with Murphy when it was too late.  

Hansen uncomfortably tries to reject the claims, but decides “saving” the family from more sorrow was a better idea. So, Hansen accepts the fake claims of being Murphy’s BFF. 

Viewers can already expect how bad it will end up for him. But they’re singing, so it should be fine, right?  

Despite the heavy topics, the accumulation of songs featured in the film exceeded my expectations. They were all phenomenally sung, but the songs’ tone could be interpreted differently depending on viewers. 

Viewers come across the same issue “13 Reasons Why” presented: the glorification of suicide. Deep and dark conversations take place in the film, so is having an actor singing in a happy tone the best way to talk about mental health? 

Mental health awareness and support in adolescence is valuable for their development to adulthood. It’s especially difficult for this demographic because high school and college students struggle to balance school, jobs, extracurriculars and social lives, while attempting to meet everyone’s expectations. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” portrays mental health issues in not only Hansen and Murphy, but also in Alana Beck, played by Amandla Stenberg. Beck was president of all school clubs, well-known by everyone in her high school, but still had multiple moments she didn’t feel enough. Beck discusses with Hansen on a swing set how she suffers from depression in her song “Anonymous Ones.” 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “An estimated 10-20% of adolescents globally experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated.” 

Without taking time for themselves or getting the help they need, these adolescents end up digging themselves a deep hole inside. Hansen almost let this empty hole consume him as he climbed up a tree. Beck and Hansen were lucky enough to receive the help and support they needed but Murphy was not as fortunate. 

The message in “Dear Evan Hansen” was not about how to impersonate a friend of a dead boy. According to Michael Greif, the original play’s director, the message of this storyline is, “That everybody deserves a chance. And everybody deserves a second chance.” 

Months after Murphy’s passing, Hansen’s prominent letter that includes his personal struggles with his family and social anxiety, ends up on the internet. The letter is published from Murphy’s perspective, which leads to a “cancel culture” attempt to take down the Murphy family. Hansen exposes his truth to the family and social media, how he wrote the letter, but tries to clear up how he didn’t mean any harm and asks for a second chance. 

People make mistakes. They’re a part of life. Everyone deserves a second chance to bounce back from those mistakes because most of us are navigating who we are and our place in the world. Murphy and Hansen were looking for their meanings in their lives and in the lives of others.  

If it weren’t for Platt’s incredible voice, I would have questioned deeply how casting directors thought 28-year-old Platt could look remotely like a high schooler. There’s a difference between keeping the original cast and giving an unrealistic representation of a “high schooler.” 

TIME references his questionable casting as “Platt, dressed in an assortment of kindergarten-style, stripey T-shirts, looks a little too much like Will Ferrell playing a full-grown man stuck in the mind of a teenager.” 

Some key moments throughout the film are when Hansen goes viral and when they reopen the apple orchard Murphy used to go to. Because the new remedy for mental health issues is apples and views. Thank you, Evan Hansen. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a film about the importance of mental health and singing about your issues. It has the right idea of raising awareness, but the transition from Broadway to the big screen ruined the story’s message.  

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911 or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

About the Contributor
Maritza Camacho, Staff Writer
Maritza is a fourth-year journalism major at San Diego State University after transferring from Santa Rosa Junior College in Spring 2021. Her desire to cover social issues started in the 4th grade when she wrote about social issues for her elementary school’s paper. Maritza also enjoys working out and listening to music, which will inform her arts and entertainment coverage. Maritza was an editor for The Oak Leaf, Santa Rosa Junior College's news media. She has won national awards for her COVID-19 coverage and podcasts, and has been featured as a panelist for the California Humanities Youth and the Ballot. In addition to podcasting and writing, she is the current social media assistant for KPBS and the social media editor for the National Association for Hispanic Journalists. In all of her current and future work, she continues to give a voice to the voiceless.
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‘Dear Evan Hansen’ misses the mark in its portrayal of mental health