“Sometimes we think we want to disappear,” reads a graphic at the start of Derek Hough’s new video for his single “Hold On”, “but all we really want is to be found.”
The former “Dancing With the Stars” dancer teamed up with the Movember Foundation for the song, and in a candid interview with Billboard he shares the devastating true story that inspired the song, which he hopes will raise awareness of mental health issues in men.
“What happened was, I wrote this song about five years ago for a friend of mine,” Hough explains. “He was going through a difficult time and I recorded it. Years passed, and I just found out recently that Chester [Bennington] from Linkin Park took his life and I had met him at the Children’s Hospital in Utah and we had talked together briefly and I met his kids. So it really affected me and it brought up a lot of emotions, ’cause I had also lost an uncle in London to when he took his own life and I witnessed that firsthand. To see what it did to the family and the people around us, it’s very traumatic.”
According to Hough, he was driving in his car and thinking about Bennington when the song popped up on a playlist, admitting “it got me. I got very emotional about it and I just immediately called my friend and say, ‘Hey listen, I really want to record this song and redo it and create a video and go out there and talk about this.’ Because it seems to be something that’s becoming more common and, especially with men.”
Adds Hough: “When I actually dove into the statistics of it, it was even more staggering — 500,000 men a year are taking their own lives, and three out of four suicides are men. It just got me motivated, it got me inspired, and it got me to talk about this. ‘Cause I think it’s a very important subject that I think, especially men, we shy away from talking about and we don’t really want to talk about and we have to carry the burden or we have to sort of tough it out.”
Hough, who directed the video himself, admits the song and its underlying message are coming from a deeply personal place. “I just witnessed it firsthand with my family members or friends around my life and I could just see the struggling and going through difficult times and most of the times holding it in,” he says. “I think as well, again, I have four sisters and I witnessed firsthand, it’s a lot easier for them to talk about their emotions and to talk about their feelings and to let it out, and I could see how it benefits them and I could see how it helped. On the flip side, I could see how men around my life, we don’t want to talk about our feelings. We want to keep them to ourselves, and we want to tough it out. We want to be the heroes. We don’t to portray like we’re weak and vulnerable. I think that’s the traditional masculine mindset that we need to sort of be rid of, I feel like, where we can actually feel like there’s a safe place for men to go out and talk and not feel ashamed. I feel like that is the word, I think that’s the soul crushing emotion that can consume a lot of these men is that shame. I feel like once they can talk about that, that will shrink. It’s like taking a big breath in and holding it, and I’m just saying, ‘Let it out, let it out. Just exhale.'”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.