Words not to use when talking about DEAR EVAN HANSEN ‘Mental Health’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘Anxiety’

Yesterday, Strict brand guidelines were sent out to ticket sellers by the ticketing company Encore, for the London production of Dear Evan Hansen, which goes on pre-sale today. As someone who sells tickets through my website, I received these and was intrigued, as in seven years of blogging, I have never come across specific guidelines like this before.

But what concerned me, was a list of words that can and can’t be used by ticketing agents, when talking about the show.

Words allowed to be used are ‘Award-winning’, ‘Multi-generational’, ‘Uplifting’, ‘Powerful’ and ‘Contemporary’ but words not to use when talking about the show are ‘Mental Health’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘Anxiety’.

As someone who has spent their life battling with Anxiety, I have been looking forward to seeing Dear Evan Hansen come to London, as in a way it represents a small part of me. And so to deny people from talking about the themes of the show, makes out as those anxiety and mental health are taboo words and things we should not discuss.

In a world where we are trying to encourage people that talking about mental health is ok, to say the words ‘mental health’, ‘suicide’ and ‘anxiety’ can’t be used, when talking about a show that is about all of those things is sad. It is as though who ever wrote the guidelines is concerned that people won’t buy tickets if they think the show is about mental health (spoiler alert – it is).

Producer, Stacey Mindich has said:

“Part of the uniqueness of the Dear Evan Hansen experience relies on not giving away too much of the plot or sensationalizing any aspect of the production. It has always been our goal for new audiences to see the musical for themselves, and to be immersed in their own experience of the show. We, as a show, do not shy away from talking about mental health – in fact, it’s one of the things we’re most proud of. We just don’t want those selling tickets on the show’s behalf – most of whom haven’t seen Dear Evan Hansen yet – to use these words to describe the show to prospective ticket buyers, because they don’t capture what the show is about. Our show is about life, not death. I don’t think there’s another show does more for the mental health conversation – such as our Mental Health Summit with Time Magazine and our affiliation with five not for profit mental health partners (for whom we have raised thousands of dollars). We are already in conversation with London mental health partners to use our tools to continue that dialogue in England. But most important is the feedback we’ve heard from hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe who respond to our show in a visceral way, and if we didn’t carefully choose the words we use to advertise our show, none of these people would come.”

The PR company for the London production of Dear Evan Hansen and the ticketing agent Encore, both stressed to me that “this is a document that was given to select sales partners, NOT journalists”. 

Premier PR also said “We don’t shy away from using words like suicide or mental health to describe our show, nor do we ask journalists not to use those words.  In fact, on Broadway the show is credited with furthering the conversation about mental health in an accessible way.”

But to me, whether or not these guidelines apply to journalists, ticket agents or both, it is still saying that ‘Mental Health’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘Anxiety’ are words that should not be used to describe the show and I think that is a shame.

Dear Evan Hansen beautifully portrays mental health issues and it is sad to read that anyone is being discouraged to talk about that aspect of the show.


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