In Dear Evan Hansen's earliest stages, it might not have been apparent what a large community the musical would tap into when it premiered in 2016. The Tony-winning show about teens who struggle with depression and anxiety has fueled a heartrending conversation about mental health that has only grown more relevant.
The show's music, written by the Oscar-winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, combined with a sensitively handled storyline about how mental illness affects teens and their families in a world made more complicated by social media, gives the production unique resonance at this moment. The year Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway, an estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health. The year before, 8.6% of adolescents in ninth through 12th grade reported making at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. About 30% of girls and 20% of boys–or about 6.3 million teens–have had an anxiety disorder, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.
"In early marketing meetings, we stayed away from words like suicide and mental health — for fear of being known as 'the suicide musical,'" Producer Stacey Mindich said Thursday, speaking at a mental health roundtable hosted by TIME, Dear Evan Hansen and the beauty company, philosophy. "But once we saw just how the show was affecting people, we realized that some things are more important than marketing messages and talking points, and we quickly embraced our unique ability to impact mental health stigmas."
To support this event, held in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, the Broadway cast of the show gave a special performance of "You Will Be Found" at TIME's headquarters in New York.