Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Love is EleMENTAL

This week, on Valentine’s Day, friends and supporters of the Global Mental Health Program attended the new Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen. I was awed by its ability to evoke emotions that lie at the heart of our human experience. An artistic masterpiece, the show exquisitely captures the longing and challenges that adolescents face in becoming and knowing themselves and the powerful and complex dynamics of belonging.

Dear Evan Hansen,

You and your fellow cast members were amazing as you brought to life the music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Five of my favorites songs were:

1. “You Will Be Found. Sung by Evan Hansen and company, “You Will Be Found” reminds us, especially on Valentine’s Day, that it is through emotional connection, relationships, and belonging that we truly come to know ourselves.

2. “Disappear.” Dear Evan Hansen is a story about our profound wishes to feel a sense of belonging; it is about community and friendships. Connor and Evan’s duet puts words to the desire that each of us has to matter to someone else. In fact, one of the strongest predictors of mental health and happiness for teens (maybe for all of us) is having at least one good friend with whom we share the experience of trust and intimacy.

3. “For Forever.” In the musical, Evan Hansen inadvertently finds himself the lead character of someone else’s story. This is true for all of us. We are each born into other people’s stories. Part of growing up is figuring out how to honor these intermingling narratives while also learning to bravely write our own.

4. “Anybody have a map?” I cannot help but identify with the moms in Dear Evan Hansen. They are devoted to their kids with every cell in their bodies, but they are “flyin’ blind” trying to parent and advocate for their kids. Even the most skillful and loving parents will have moments when we are “just pretending to know.” As much as we might wish for that parenting map, it is as elusive as the route with no traffic through midtown Manhattan.

5. “Words Fail.” Evan Hansen “never meant to make such a mess.” In Words Fail, he cannot begin to explain how he got so carried away except that “sometimes you see everything you wish you had.” Ultimately, Dear Evan Hansen is an extraordinary story of compassion for oneself and others that is part of the life’s virtuous cascade of love and forgiveness.



Picture of Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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