Five years ago, Derek Hough wrote a song.
He recorded it for a friend that was struggling, gave it to that friend and then didn't really think about the song again. Until this year, that is.
"I had just found out about Chester [Bennington] from Linkin Park passing away, and it kind of got me," he recalled to AOL Entertainment over the phone. "I met him briefly at the Children’s Hospital in Utah -- we helped open it there together -- and we golfed together briefly and I met his kids, and it just really got to me. Right after I found out, this song came on my playlist in my car and reminded me of it, and I got kind of emotional."
Thinking back to his friend's difficult experience, his unexpected reaction to Chester Bennington's suicide and his uncle's devastating suicide when Hough was 15, the former "Dancing With the Stars" pro wanted to do something to help.
"I immediately called a buddy of mine and told him I wanted to re-record the song, revamp it and create a video for it, so we can talk about suicide," he explained. "It’s becoming a little too common and, especially with men, there’s this stigma of how we can’t talk about our feelings and emotions, and we keep everything to ourselves. I just want to encourage men to let it out and talk to each other and know that it’s not a weakness to show vulnerability."
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The resulting song, "Hold On" -- Hough's first ever original song -- is released on November 1, the start of the Movember Foundation's annual campaign to promote men's health, mental health and suicide prevention.
"When I was thinking about releasing this song, it was important for me to work with an organization that tackles mental illness and suicide prevention, which is why I teamed up with the Movember Foundation," he told us. "One of their primary missions is to make male suicide prevention a global priority, and that’s very important for me."
With the song's encouraging lyrics and the accompanying video's powerful visuals, Hough is hoping to provide a glimmer of light for people struggling through dark times, while also encouraging them to reach out to those around them for support.
"Once you begin to talk about it, the shame people have in talking about suicide should begin to shrink," he said. "You’re giving another person an opportunity to be there for you. That’s what this video is about, as well -- it’s this story of people going through a difficult time and reaching their breaking point and their paths cross and they’re essentially able to save one another."
At the end of the day, Hough is hoping to end the overall stigma around mental health by promoting dialogue and openness and encouraging men not to be shy when it comes to discussing their thoughts and feelings.
"When someone breaks their arm, a doctor puts a cast on it and in a few weeks they’ll be back to feeling normal again," he explained to us. "But when someone is dealing with depression or another mental illness, it can be a scary topic for people to talk about and is one that people shy away from, which I think is the biggest problem. We need to not shy away from it and run towards it."
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