Ben Platt Talks Mental Health, Queer Representation — and Reacts to 'Dear Evan Hansen' Closing

The Broadway star performed at a fundraiser for Glenn Close's mental health charity Bring Change to Mind

Ben Platt
Ben Platt. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Ben Platt is opening up about how his experience starring in Dear Evan Hansen has prompted conversations about mental health.

On July 7, the Tony winner performed at a fundraiser for Glenn Close's charity Bring Change to Mind, which aims to end stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. The event — held at N.Y.C.'s historic gay bar the Stonewall Inn — focused on raising awareness and empathy for LGBTQ youth dealing with mental health issues.

Hosted by Madam Secretary alum Erich Bergen, the star-studded event featured performances by Platt (who sang "Come Back," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and an unreleased track, "Monsters"), as well as comedian Sam Jay and Broadway stars John Cameron Mitchell and André de Shields.

Ahead of the show, PEOPLE caught up with Platt about managing mental health, his relationship with boyfriend Noah Galvin and Dear Evan Hansen closing on Broadway six years after he brought the titular character to life onstage.

Ben Platt
Ben Platt performing at the Stonewall Inn. Dan Bassini

Why did you want to get involved with Bring Change to Mind?

Given my background in Dear Evan Hansen and just the work I've been able to do in the past, I feel like this kind of zone has been where I feel my voice in particular can be really effective and can be connective for young people.

Suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are alarmingly high, so these are important conversations to have.

I feel like it gets scarier and scarier as time goes, when I wish that it was moving in the other direction; it felt like for a while I was, and now it's like we're taking giant steps backward. I just feel so helpless at times, in terms of how to help the situation. When I feel there's nothing else I can do, I just to try to be as completely open and public and loud about who I am and my relationship and the way I live my life and just try to show that there's a version of it with no strife and that it doesn't have to be this kind of painful thing that other people take on besides just the person whose identity is queer.

You've been open about your journey with anxiety. What's your experience with managing mental health been as a queer person?

I'm also Jewish — those two things mixed, anxiety definitely, like, runs in my blood. From a young age, I was very anxious and have been medicated at different times and have found different ways of coping, certainly being in therapy and speaking about it every week has been really helpful. I'm also really blessed to have a partner who's a very calming presence, whose anxieties are present as well, but manifests in very different ways than mine. It's a day-to-day thing. I find that for myself, it's like thinking about things into large of a scope. It just feels overwhelming. There's not much to be done, but I feel in terms of what can I do today and how can I feel relatively calm and then tackle the next day.

The fact that I have experienced the anxiety in the walls of such an incredibly privileged upbringing and fact that I had parents that accepted everything about me and that there's so many pieces of adversity that weren't there and to still have that internal fight… I can't imagine what young people are going through who have that innate thing on top of the fact that, externally, they're not being validated at all. So I just try to do what I can to be a voice.

Ben Platt during an performance of 'Dear Evan Hansen' on November 22, 2016
Ben Platt as Evan Hansen from Dear Evan Hansen. Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

It's easy to feel helpless these days. What gives you hope?

Young people and the way that they deal with sexuality is so inspiring — not just the fluidity and openness of it, but how not limiting it seems and how their identities certainly are wrapped up in it; they're happy to talk about it, and there's not a lot of stigma around it, but also that it's very much just part of the tapestry of who they are. That's very encouraging to see. And I think just keeping in mind that sometimes politically, the way the things are representative is representative of a lot smaller group of people than you feel like it is. We all feel like it is sometimes because those are the loudest, most powerful, dangerous voices — but when you really get down to brass tacks, there are so many more people that you feel the right way and believe the right things, so I try to remind myself that.

Going back to Dear Evan Hansen and its themes of mental health, I'm curious what your interactions with fans have been like when it comes to these issues.

Very overwhelming, and it's a beautiful thing — a lot of in-person interactions and also letters of just people really opening up entirely about issues with self-harm and self-love and attempted suicide. I am not a mental health expert, so I had to really learn to make sure that I'm an open door and open ears for young people to feel like they can open up about those things and allow the piece to let them do that, but also not profess to have answers or advice that I'm not qualified to give and just make sure that they are being pointed to the right places.

The fact that I was a part of a piece of art that, selfishly, was a wonderful experience — and then on top of that, opened up all these conversations and seems to have opened the floodgates in a way, that's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I don't expect that there'll be a million projects in my lifetime that have such a visible effect like that, where people really start talking.

The Broadway show will be closing this fall. How do you feel about that chapter ending?

It had a beautiful, long run, and it was very of the moment — and now we're at a new moment and it's time for new pieces, but I think the legacy will live on and in the ways that it changed lives of a lot of young people and opened a lot of conversations. I just hope they have a beautiful last couple weeks.

Noah Galvin and Ben Platt attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Noah Galvin and Ben Platt. Emma McIntyre/Getty

You and Noah look happier than ever. How has your relationship changed in the pandemic?

It's just the best. We knew each other for a long time before we started dating, then we started dating right before the pandemic. I think the pandemic was kind of a make-or-break— it really allowed us to put [our relationship] under a microscope where it felt like really the perfect timing. And like I said, he really is a level-out for me. I tend to operate in a very high frequency, and he does not, in a really beautiful way. So I feel very lucky to have him as a grounding presence.

You guys are really open about your relationship on Instagram — it's nice to see queer joy.

I do really feel like one of the most effective things I can do is just show a normal, queer, happy relationship in life and be as completely open and happy about it as I feel.

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