November 08, 2017 11:30 AM

Five years ago, Derek Hough wrote an encouraging song for a friend experiencing tough times. But the track remained unreleased until Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington’s July 20 suicide.

“I met him in Utah at the children’s hospital. We golfed together briefly and I met his kids,” Hough, 32, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Having met him before, his death really got me. I became inspired.”

The former Dancing with the Stars pro put out “Hold On,” his first solo single, with The Movember Foundation earlier this month in hopes of changing the dialogue about men’s mental health.

“Men don’t want to talk about their feelings,” Hough, who lost his uncle to suicide, says. “If any other part of our body is injured I think it’s easier for us to handle, but if our emotions are injured, then it’s like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to talk about that.’ Or, ‘Oh, something is wrong with me.’ Let’s make it a conversation we’re not afraid to talk about.”

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The dancer admits he’s even struggled opening up to his closest friends and family members, like younger sister Julianne.

“In the past whenever I go into dark times or I feel certain emotions, I never wanted anybody to know,” he says. “I didn’t want my family to know about it. I didn’t want my sisters to know about it. I wanted to be the hero. I want everything to be perfect. But that’s not a sustainable solution to your feelings. When I was able to share certain feelings with my family and reach out and my friends, it’s amazing how they’ll step up to the plate for you if you give them the opportunity to.”

RELATED VIDEO: Julianne and Derek Hough Open Up About Their Unconventional

Now, Hough wants to be that resource for his fans. “I hate to see people suffering and I can see a lot of people out there who feel like they’re alone,” the Utah native continues. “We talk about it to encourage somebody, to spark something or to be a catalyst.”

While filming the “Hold On” video, Hough says he’s already been able to connect with men connected to the subject.

“They’d come up to me after we shot the video and said, ‘Listen, I just lost somebody last December,’ ” the Hairspray Live star recalls. “And one of our set designers came up to me — he seemed like the happiest guy in the world, just so full of life — and he came up to and said, ‘I tried to take my life a month ago and I’m so happy that I’m still alive and that I’m here and I was able to be a part of this project.’ I gave him the biggest hug and we shed a few tears.”

Ultimately Hough wants men everywhere to know: “They don’t have to suffer in silence.”

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