‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Musical Helps Local Teens Further Suicide Prevention Message
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Tony-Award winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” finally made its way to a Salt Lake City stage and a local Hope Squad is using it to spark a conversation to help teens through thoughts of depression and suicide.
“Dear Evan Hansen” is known for not only its powerful music but for its profound message. It portrays a high school teenager who struggles with a social anxiety disorder and desperately years for real friends. His therapist recommends that he starts writing encouraging letters to himself daily as part of his therapy.
After his classmate dies by suicide, Hansen fabricates a relationship with the deceased student in an effort to connect with his family. Hansen finally finds himself trapped in his spiraling lies.
“Lights came up at intermission and I looked up and down the row and everyone was crying,” said high school senior Madelyn Salazar.
Salazar said the show was very relatable since she is also preparing to leave her home and mom for the first time after graduating this year, just like Evan Hansen. “There were a lot of the familial relationships that I saw myself in that I was very affected by,” she said.
The next day the students met to discuss what they learned and how they can implement their findings.
“We do need to be empathetic and we do need to sympathize,’ one student suggested.
As Hope Squad members, they are trained to identify suicide warning signs in their peers on campus. Hope Squad president Lucas Cass said there is a continuing need, especially with a growing presence of social media for teenagers.
“I noticed how prevalent this story is in our society right now,” Cass said.
He said he knows what it’s like to not always have friends, which is why he makes a daily effort to reach out to others.
“I’ll even go up to someone random on the bus and say, ‘Can I sit next to you?’ and start a conversation,” he said.
For Cass, it’s always worth it.
“Seeing smiles after I finish talking to someone,” he said, is just one of many reasons he puts himself out there to help others feel included.
Willow Amendola, school counselor at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, said these students are passionate about their decision to participate in the Hope Squad.
“They’re here because they want to be,” she said. “They’ve been impacted by a suicide within their lives or because they’ve had their personal own experience with suicide ideation,” she explained.
After seeing the production, Amendola believes her students are better prepared to make a difference on their campus for students who might be struggling with thoughts of depression or suicide.
“To be able to have some take-aways from this was exactly what we were looking for,” she said.
High school junior and musical theater student Miller Loftus said they left the show with one resounding message: “You are not alone and you shouldn’t be alone,” he said. This is the theme he said they will continue to spread throughout their campus.
SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional Crisis Hotlines
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
- University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300
- NAMI Utah
- Utah Chapter-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Safe UT Crisis Text and Tip Line
In An Emergency
- Call the police
- Go to the emergency room