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Musicals About Mental Health

Introduction


Through combining music, theatre and other artistic elements, musical theatre can be a particularly powerful medium through which important stories can be shared, and can help us to relate and empathise with the characters. Here are a few musicals that tackle topics related to mental health:


(Warning: spoilers and trigger warnings are listed for each musical)


Next to Normal


Next to Normal by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt - (trigger warning: suicide)

Next to Normal revolves around Diana Goodman, a woman with bipolar disorder, and her family. They appear to be living a normal, happy life at first, but as it turns out Diana is struggling with her illness and is hallucinating her dead son; her treatment is causing her mental health to spiral and she and her family both struggle to meet their emotional needs.

This musical talks about:

  • Psychiatry

  • Psychotherapy

  • Mental illness (bipolar disorder)

  • Family and Mental Health


Dear Evan Hansen


Dear Evan Hansen by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Steven Levenson - (trigger warning: suicide)

This musical tells the story of Evan Hansen, a teenager with social anxiety, who navigates through high school in the wake of a classmate’s suicide.

This musical talks about:

  • Anxiety

  • Suicide

  • Parent-child relationships (especially for children with mental illness)

  • Therapy


Heathers

Heathers by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe - (trigger warnings: murder, suicide, rape, homophobia, eating disorders, gun violence, bullying)

This dark comedy, despite being on the more extreme end, delves deeply into a myriad (it’s a reference!) of mental health issues that are incredibly prevalent nowadays. Veronica Sawyer, a senior at Westerburg High, mingles with her school’s clique of popular girls and falls for the dark and mysterious Jason Dean - things only go downhill from there.

This musical talks about:

  • School

  • Adult negligence

  • Suicide and death

  • Trauma and worldview


Mean Girls

Mean Girls by Jeff Richmond, Nell Benjamin, Tina Fey - (trigger warning: eating disorders)

Despite often being compared with Heathers, it presents an arguably more relatable tale for most teenagers. Set in North Shore High, 16-year-old Cady Heron joins the school community from Kenya and tries to fit in, learning a few lessons on the way.

This musical talks about:

  • Conformity and Peer Pressure

  • Bullying


Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice by Eddie Perfect, Anthony King, Scott Brown - (trigger warning: suicide)

Based on the 1988 movie of the same name, Beetlejuice is a dark comedy that tells the story of Lydia Deetz, a teenager newly mourning her mother’s death, as she encounters a demon and a recently deceased couple while trying to navigate through her emotions and grief.

This musical talks about:

  • Death

  • Toxic positivity

  • Family


Researcher - Annette


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