The dancer and actress attended the National Alliance of Mental Illness's annual gala alongside Allison Holker Boss, who received the Heart of a Champion award in honor of her late husband
On Friday, the actress and dancer attended the National Alliance of Mental Illness Westside Los Angeles (NAMI WLA) annual gala, where she helped present the Heart of a Champion award in Boss's honor to his wife Allison Holker Boss and their daughter Weslie.
Before presenting the award alongside Derek Hough, Dewan spoke to PEOPLE on the event's red carpet about why it was so important for her to be a part of this day.
"This is incredible, to have the moment to share in his love, light, and legacy. And being here to support Allison and their family I've known for so many years. They are truly the absolute best, biggest-hearted [people]. They take care of everybody else," Dewan, 42, said.
"I just think being here to help support her and her family and moving forward from tragedy and also supporting his legacy and his love and light and what he did for the world," she continued. "You saw how everybody really felt this and felt him and he touched so many people. So to be able to be here and honor that is really important to me."
When it comes to Boss's legacy, Dewan said: "I do think his legacy already is love, light, bringing his incredible grace."
"I think there was an uplifting energy that he gave to other people, and I think if there's any lesson or anything we take home from this, it is what you present is not always what is the full picture," she added. "I hope people can see that you can struggle and be strong, and being strong doesn't mean you don't struggle. I think that is important to highlight that tonight."
Boss died in December 2022 by suicide at age 40. The dancer's shocking death has since sparked conversations about the stigma surrounding mental health.
"I have a lot of mental health issues in my family and our history. And so I've seen family members of mine struggle. I've seen a lot of shame around it. I've seen a lot of not wanting to comport or accept the help that is needed," Dewan explained to PEOPLE at Friday's event. "That needs to change. We need to discuss it more. It needs to be something that is openly okay to discuss, to get help for. And I think that talking about it is really one of the main ways to do it."
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"I've had so many people — specifically men — reaching out to me, [saying] how they were so affected because they didn't realize how much they were holding on to and not expressing," she recently told PEOPLE. "I found that to be a lot to hold on to at first, but then I realized I want people to feel safe talking to me and to open up and understand that we have to support each other in these moments."
"I could allow myself to go to a really dark place right now, and that would be valid and fine. But I want to choose a different way for myself and the kids," she added.
As Holker Boss accepted the Heart of a Champion award in her late husband's honor on Friday, she said her family will "promise to continue to move from love and joy forever and always, and to continue to inspire and lead and to teach and to grow."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.
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