“SAVING PEOPLE, HUNTING MENTAL ILLNESS & THE SPN FAMILY BUSINESS”
by Gia Embach
What makes a hero? It is their immense strength, bravery, kindness, and selflessness. They inspire and save the lives of people for no other reason than to help. For me, I found my heroes because of a TV show that I had no clue would be as special as it is to me. By telling his story and launching a campaign giving support to those in need, Jared Padalecki, alongside Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles, have inspired thousands of people, and myself, to never give up, and to always keep fighting.
In March of 2015, Jared launched the “Always Keep Fighting Campaign” with different T-Shirts bearing the slogan. All the money gained from the over 500,000 products sold were given to the charities To Write Love On Her Arms, The Wounded Warrior Project and A.I.R. – Attitudes In Reverse – Student Suicide Prevention. Later, he gave the reason for him starting the campaign in the first place. That previous New Years Eve, one of Jared’s best friends lost his battle with depression. Jared stated that this was not the first time he had lost a personal friend to suicide. Using this new campaign, he said that he hoped “that this campaign, while raising money for a wonderful charity, can also raise awareness about issues that affect more people than we know. I hope it inspires people battling depression, addiction, mental illness and suicidal thoughts to be vocal about their struggles. I hope it helps people realize that they shouldn’t be ashamed of what they are going through, and I hope it helps people meet and find new friends that they can relate to. I hope it helps people take pride in the fight that they have been fighting, and gives them a push to never give up or give in. I hope it helps inspire people to keep fighting. no matter how hard it is.” Through his actions, he showed a level of kindness and compassion that is superhuman. Later, however, he reveals something that gives the “Always Keep Fighting” Campaign an entirely different depth.
Living with a mental illness by itself requires an immense amount of strength and bravery. I have witnessed first hand that kind of wear and tear it can do (and yes, there is a REAL “super hero” I know that I am lucky enough to call my mom). Opening up to the public, to millions of people that you have suffered through the same battles as the people you are fighting for? That requires unbelievable bravery. Jared did just that. He said how he has suffered from anxiety and depression. He said that he did not understand why he would be depressed. “It kind of hit me like a sack of bricks,” Jared told reporters. “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 sometimes.” Misha Collins, a best friend and co-star of Jared, also suffered in the same way that many fans and readers alike have. Misha had been self-harming for years. Since he was only around 12 or 13 years old. Misha won his battle. He stopped cutting himself and started loving himself. Later, he and his co-star/best friend Jensen Ackles started something of their own.
On February 12, 2016, Jensen and Misha launched the “You Are Not Alone” with a fundraising T-shirt Campaign with T-shirts that used the slogan “You Are Not Alone”. The SPNFamily Crisis Support Network has been established by Jensen and Misha in partnership with Random Acts, TWLOHA, and IMAlive. This project created an online support network to help fans cope with mental health issues such as depression, self-injury, and addiction and included training for fan volunteers who wish to be crisis responders in their spare time, provided immediate access to support lifelines for fans in crisis, and local community resources for those needing additional support or information. Together, they save lives and create warriors in the process. They have shown people that there are people who care about them. They save lives as any hero should.
Through words and actions, they have shown far more than bravery, courage, and compassion. Just like the ‘S’ on Superman’s chest, what they have done means hope for people. On February 9th, Misha Collins, who plays Castiel on Supernatural, posted a video on his social media accounts. Misha’s message? He told his fans without speaking that they’re not alone. To people outside of the Supernatural fandom, this video may not seem like much. But to people who know Misha, to people who watch him every week on The CW, these four words, “you are not alone” mean so much more. Fans see that the actors that they look up to and love not only care about them, but believe in them. They continue also to bring the three-word sentence, “always keep fighting”, up fairly often, constantly reminding their fans to not give up.
Jared, Jensen, and Misha. To people not in the fandom, these names mean nothing. I promise you, however, that these names have meant life for thousands of people, mine included. They have not only saved lives, but taught people how to save lives themselves. To look around, at complete strangers, and help those who are struggling, and make sure that they win their fight. They have created an army that fights the demons that live in all of our hearts and minds. An army that is fighting every day for one another.
Jared, Jensen, and Misha have saved thousands of lives, mine included. Day after day they continue to save people. Jared Padalecki, alongside Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles, have inspired thousands of people, and myself, to never give up, and to always keep fighting. They have taught us that no matter what happens, what we do, I keep going. No matter how much we want to give up on anything, little or small, we will refuse to stop. Most importantly, they have taught us that even if we think we have met our match and can’t go on, we will get up and fight harder than ever. We can go on because we are enough, we are not alone, and we have a family of people we have never met, who love us and understand us. Who live their lives loving and helping complete strangers. Thanks to these three men. As Jared said:
Even if there are a thousand small fights, even if every other minute you’re thinking about suicide, or depression, or addiction, or if you have a mental illness, I want people to hit it head on and take action. And to be proud that they’re winning their fight, period.
We must always keep fighting!