Supernatural fans may know him as Sam, brother of Dean on the long-running hit CW fantasy horror television show, but Jared Padalecki is so much more than the other half of the ghost fighting, power welding, monster killing Winchester duo. In real life, he is not only a survivor of childhood bullying, he is also a supporter of numerous charities, as well as the creator of a t-shirt campaign aimed at bringing awareness and support to those battling severe depression.
Throughout the years, Padalecki, along with his CW Network crew, has lent his celebrity status to back many worthy causes, including organizations like A Dog’s Life Rescue and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. His love for helping others has long been a part of his efforts to bring as much good as possible to those who need it most. And with the start of his “Always Keep Fighting” t-shirt initiative through Represent.com in 2015, he continued his hardcore mission to encourage and inspire those feeling the weight of the world closing in on them daily. Part of the proceeds from “Always Keep Fighting” are given to “To Write Love on Her Arms” (TWLOHA), a non-profit that supports those struggling with depression, self-injury, and suicide.
It is no secret that mental illness affects millions of people around the world. In fact, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), in America alone, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness while an estimated 43.8 million adults experience some form of mental illness in any given year. Mental illness comes in many forms, and for Padelecki, severe depression is something he has struggled with personally. What better way to cope and fight the disease than to help others do the same? He told “Variety” in a March 2015 interview,
“I, for a long time, have been passionate about people dealing with mental illness and struggling with depression, or addiction, or having suicidal thoughts and, strangely enough, it’s almost like the life I live, as well… there’s no shame in dealing with these things. There’s no shame in having to fight every day… and presumably, if you’re still alive to hear these words or read this interview, then you are winning your war. You’re here.”
The message behind “Always Keep Fighting” is simple – don’t stop. Padalecki knows first-hand how hard it can be to face the world when you are dealing with a mental illness as debilitating as depression. Upon breaking down in his trailer one day after shooting an episode about suicide during season three of Supernatural, he realized that although he had everything he could ever want, he was still overwhelmingly sad. It was through this experience that he was diagnosed with clinical depression and his road to understanding, recovery, and helping others began. Since then, Padalecki has come to embrace a very important truth about the human spirit, and it is one that he wants other individuals suffering from mental illness to know.
“Don’t underestimate your own strength. To persevere. To make it through the most difficult times. And, just as importantly, don’t underestimate your ability to help someone else during their most difficult times. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word, or gesture, to help someone make it through their day.”
When you are an actor who happens to be a part of a show in its 13th season, which is also one of TV’s longest-running programs, it can be very easy to become consumed with the glitz and glam of Hollywood. But given the climate of today’s world and everything that people go through, initiatives such as “Always Keep Fighting,” which further supports organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and Student Suicide Prevention, makes all the difference in the world.
The Supernatural fan base is robust. People have grown up with the Winchester brothers over the last decade. For Padalecki to use his platform in a way that reaches beyond the storylines of the show, he has made positive impacts on the lives of the diehard fans who faithfully support him. You never know what someone is going through and with depression taking lives at a rate of 13.26 per 100,000 individuals, there can never be enough people willing to do things that help the millions suffering from mental illness annually.
I, for one, am grateful for the time and effort that Jared Paladecki continues to give to “Always Keep Fighting” and his other charities. The work is meaningful on a grander scale, and there is no doubt that lives have been touched and saved because of it. You can click on any of the links for the charities that Jared Padalecki contributes to learn more about their great work.