Trevor Mills is starting a conversation about mental health right in the classroom.

A high school teacher at Kitsilano Secondary in Vancouver, Mills uses rap to get students to open up about the stigma of mental illness.

It can be a difficult subject to tackle, so Mills uses the language that his students can best relate to. In class, they are encouraged to open up through rhyme.

And the communications teacher leads by example.

Mills performed his own rap, “Evidence of a Struggle,” in Vancouver during last year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, helping to raise $25,000 for local mental health initiatives. Today, he is continuing his fundraising efforts by recording a CD of his own raps and those of his students.

For Mills, mental illness hits close to home. Eighteen months ago, Mills lost his older brother to suicide after years of struggle.

“When my brother passed, that’s when I got really aggressive with fund-raising, and that’s when I knew I wanted to turn this tragedy into a positive, Mills told CTV Vancouver.

He doesn’t want his students to feel disconnected from the process of speaking out about mental illness.

“We forget that we matter to somebody,” Mills says to his class. “And we do.”

With a report by CTV Vancouver’s Peter Grainger