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‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ coming to Salt Lake City, has an important message to share about suicide

Stephen Christoper Anthony as Evan Hansen and the North American touring company of “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Matthew Murphy

SALT LAKE CITY — The touring production of Broadway’s “Dear Evan Hansen” is headed to Utah with an important message: “You will be found.”

The six-time Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Evan Hansen, an insecure teenage boy whose therapist recommends writing daily affirmation letters to himself in order to help build his confidence. When one of the letters is found in the pocket of a high school classmate who commits suicide, Evan finds himself caught in a lie about the two having been friends.

The play, onstage at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City from March 4-14, features a book by playwright Steven Levenson and a score by songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, also known for their work on projects such as “The Greatest Showman” and “La La Land.”

“Dear Evan Hansen” shines a light on suicide, the seventh-leading cause of death in Utah and 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10-24 and the second-leading cause of death for Americans in that age group, according to the data.

“Suicide is a complex issue,” said Allison Foust, suicide prevention administrator for the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, in an email. “There are multiple things that play into our rates of suicide here in Utah.”

About 85% of firearm deaths in Utah are suicides, according to Foust.

“One of the biggest things we can do as individuals to play a role in suicide prevention is to lock up firearms in our home, particularly if there are youth in the home as they tend to be a little more impulsive,” Foust said.

“This means that by locking up our firearms, we can drastically reduce the rates in our state,” Foust said.

To prevent suicide, Foust recommends signing up for a training on recognizing the warning signs and reaching out at utahsuicideprevention.org, locking up firearms, becoming familiar with local resources for mental health, and saving the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number: 1-800-273-8255.

“There is hope, help is available and recovery is possible,” Foust said.

Foust said she thinks public discussions on the topic of suicide like those contained in “Dear Evan Hansen” are necessary.

“Art communities and cultural event centers have the ability to reach a broader population with this important message in a way that we may not have been able to engage them otherwise,” Foust said.

She said she hopes viewers “walk away understanding how powerful a simple act of kindness can be.”

“By simply reaching out to someone and letting them know they are not alone, we can potentially save a life. We can all play a role in suicide prevention,” Foust said. “Remember you are not alone. Help is available at 1-800-273-8255.”