“Dear Evan Hansen”: a musical way to raise awareness about suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention Month (this year’s hashtags are #SuicidePrevention and #StigmaFree if you want to check out social media to find events going on in your area).  This blog already discussed one media sensation about suicide, the Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why.  You may think that one media juggernaut dealing with suicide is enough, but you would be wrong.  Enter the Broadway musical.

It’s no surprise that the generations that have been raised on Disney and its music have developed a passion for Broadway musicals (hello “Hamilton”!). Broadway musicals are known for addressing social issues – “Rent” tackled HIV and sexuality, “Next to Normal” dealt with bipolar disorder… the list goes on and on. There is a new Broadway musical that should be on your radar called “Dear Evan Hansen.” This show addresses many difficult issues that teenagers face, set to the backdrop of very inspiring and beautiful songs (and that’s not just my opinion- it won 6 Tony Awards last year!). The story follows Evan (who is afflicted with social anxiety disorder which makes school extremely stressful) and his crush Zoe as they both deal with the suicide of Zoe’s brother Connor (who, prior to his death, was struggling with drug addiction). As you can see from that short synopsis, there are quite a few mental health topics addressed in this musical, which could make it a good resource for opening up a dialogue with teenagers about some of the struggles they may be facing. Having open discussions about suicide is key! Talking about suicide does NOT make people feel more suicidal, nor does it “put the idea in their mind.”

But just how prevalent is teenage suicide that there is a whole month dedicated to addressing and preventing it? As you may recall, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in older teens and young adults. Nationally, it is estimated that about 9% of all adolescents had attempted suicide in the past year. People at higher risk of suicide include ones with psychiatric disorders (most commonly depression), a history of physical or sexual abuse, family history of suicide, and someone with previous suicide attempts. Substance use disorders have also been linked to higher adolescent suicide rates.

In summary, suicide is more prevalent than one might realize but there are always ways to try and address it. If you ever find yourself experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please reach out to your friends, family, or your primary care provider for support!  If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, including social isolation, giving away possessions, hopeless talk, or posting hints on social media, make sure you seek help.  If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

And if you are ever having a tough day or just appreciate beautiful music, be sure to check out the “Dear Evan Hansen” soundtrack – You Will Be Found can be especially uplifting.

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