In the midst of global tragedy and horror, I would like to take a moment to highlight someone who directs their energies towards enacting positive change in the world.
While it is very common for celebrities to double as philanthropists, donating portions of their colossal paychecks to The Cause (whatever that may be), I am particularly drawn to Jared Padalecki’s “Always Keep Fighting” campaign.
While shooting the third season of his hit sci-fi show, Supernatural, the actor had an anxiety attack. Upon speaking with a doctor on set, Padalecki was diagnosed with clinical depression. Mental illness already had a large presence in his life; by this point, he had lost several friends to suicide. Yet, the diagnosis still came as a shock to him:
And it kind of hit me like a sack of bricks. I mean, I was 25 years old. I had my own TV show. I had dogs that I loved and tons of friends and I was getting adoration from fans and I was happy with my work, but I couldn’t figure out what it was; it doesn’t always make sense is my point. It’s not just people who can’t find a job, or can’t fit in in society that struggle with depression. –Variety
Padalecki’s diagnosis intensified his passion for mental health awareness. The actor often mentions in interviews how the leading characters of his show, Supernatural, deal with things that are much larger than themselves; he says that he learned from Sam and Dean the importance of receiving help and support from others in the face of hardship.
After witnessing the success of friend Stephen Amell’s F*ck Cancer T-shirt campaign, Padalecki decided to launch his own campaign, partnering with Represent to raise awareness of mental illness, depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. Through “Always Keep Fighting,” Padalecki hopes to acknowledge both the challenges and the strengths of those with mental illnesses and work towards de-stigmatization.
I say constantly that there’s no shame in dealing with these things. There’s no shame in having to fight every day, but fighting 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. You might not win every battle. There are going to be some really tough days. There might be several tough times in any given single day, but hopefully, this will help somebody to think, “This isn’t easy; it is a fight, but I’m going to keep fighting,” and that’s why we did this shirt.
I didn’t want to say, “Never Give Up,” because to me, when you say “never give up,” it makes it sound like you’re being beaten down. It puts you on the defense, as if your only option is either to give up or to get beaten up. –Variety
So far, he has spearheaded four fundraisers, expanding beyond T-shirts. The majority of the proceeds for these campaigns go to non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms, which “exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.” Other participating organizations include The Wounded Warrior Project and A.I.R. Attitudes in Reverse –Student Suicide Prevention – Mental Health.
- T-shirt (March 2015): 46,436 sold
- T-shirt, phone cases, and totes (April 2015): 70,121 sold
- T-shirt (July 2015): 40,152 sold
- T-shirt (November 2015): 37,833 sold (and counting)
In a CNN article, Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, states, “When celebrities speak publicly about their own experiences with depression or other psychiatric conditions, it’s very helpful […] It opens up a conversation about these issues. If someone you admire is going through the same thing you might be going through, it makes a difference with people, it causes people to seek help.”
Whereas many high-profile celebrities understandably prefer to conceal their battles with mental illness, Padalecki transformed his own struggles with depression (as well as his grief over his friends’ suicides) into an opportunity to support others. Although Padalecki says that he does not want to be seen as a leader of a movement, his contributions to mental health awareness are significant and surpass the usual act of obligatory philanthropy that other celebrities offer. Jared Padalecki goes beyond raising money; he builds community.