Supernatural actor Jared Padalecki launched his first “Always Keep Fighting” campaign three years ago today, with the very first design raising funds for charities To Write Love on Her Arms, The Wounded Warrior Project, and Attitudes in Reverse.
In 2015, Padalecki opened up about his struggles with depression and his want to support those dealing with mental illness, depression and suicide, leading to the first AKF campaign.
Since then, the AKF movement has spawned six designs, two with Padalecki’s Supernatural co-star and longtime friend Jensen Ackles, and three additional slogans (Love Yourself First, I Am Enough, and Family Always Has Your Back) and almost 500,000 shirts, hoodies, phone cases, children’s shirts and hats have been sold across the campaigns and relaunches.
Below are a few of those stories, written by Nerds and Beyond staff:
Always Keep Fighting had already been around for a little while when I ventured into the Supernatural fandom and became aware of it. In that moment, Jared – who was the reason I started watching Supernatural to begin with – gained a whole new level of respect in my eyes.
You see, I battled with depression and anxiety terribly when I was a teenager. It affected my life in the worst ways imaginable and made me feel like somebody I wasn’t for years. This was almost twenty years ago now, and while I was medicated and had talk therapy to help me get through it, the experience was very isolating because at that time, teenagers didn’t talk about that kind of thing. My friends didn’t understand what I was going through, and I was left feeling like nobody understood what I was dealing with.
When I heard about AKF, one of my first thoughts was how much a movement like this would have made an impact in my life twenty years ago. For thirteen year old me to know that somebody as talented, strong, and successful as Jared Padalecki was dealing with what I was dealing with at the time would have been such a validating experience for me. I know being able to use his story as a way to start a conversation with my friends about what I was dealing with undoubtedly would have changed my life.
Jared being brave enough to share his story has enabled countless people to be able to have a conversation about mental health – or even just to use the hashtag to ask for help when they’re having a bad day. I know I’ve used it, I’ve replied to it, and I’ve seen it have a profound impact on numerous lives.
Even after three years, it’s obvious the AKF movement isn’t one that’s going to end anytime soon, and I hope Jared knows how proud all of his fans are for being the one to bring it to life. –Tricia
Today marks 3 years of Jared’s AKF campaigns, and these campaigns have helped me so much. I only have one of the shirts from these campaigns, but I wear it all the time. A couple years ago during my senior year of high school, I knew I was feeling so hopeless and had problems I needed to deal with, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Thanks to Jared and his campaigns, I got the help I needed in therapy. I wouldn’t have gone to therapy or even considered that option if it weren’t for him. I wouldn’t have had the courage to go and admit I needed help if weren’t for him. And while it’s been a couple years, and my life isn’t any better, I’m still fighting. I’m not giving up, because I want to keep fighting for something better. I’m not going to give up, thanks to Jared.
I’m also thankful and proud of Jared for being open about his struggles. One of the things that helped me, was to know I wasn’t alone. When I heard other people’s stories, it felt better to know that I wasn’t alone, and other people were going through similar things. Thanks to people like Jared, more people are being open about their struggles, and having the courage to speak up when they need help and sharing their stories to help others. Because of Jared, I am now part of a mental health awareness and advocacy group on my campus, trying to de-stigmatize mental illnesses. Thank you, Jared, for speaking up and showing us it’s okay to get help. –Olivia
I’ve been watching Supernatural since 2009, but the fandom took on entirely deeper meaning for me when Jared launched the AKF campaign. At that point, I had been a fan for years but never knew (like many others) that Jared had depression and anxiety. Coincidentally, Jared opened up about his struggles with anxiety and depression at the same time that I was also dealing with similar issues. I really had a hard time opening up to people in my life, and a few people that I did open up to believed the stigma surrounding mental illness, that I was doing it for attention or that I should just “suck it up”.
I still remember very vividly the day that the campaign was launched. I got a notification on my phone that Jared Padalecki was mentioned in an article. When I read that article, which was about AKF campaign, I remember just being absolutely shocked. I couldn’t believe that someone that I had already loved and was a fan of for so long also struggled with the exact same thing I was going through. Jared was the first person in my life that I saw who told me that it was okay to be depressed. That many people go through these periods of their life, and that’s okay. That didn’t make me any less strong of a person and didn’t make me any less worthy to get help, no matter how “good” society felt my life was. I can honestly say now that I would not have had the courage to come forward with what I was going through if it had not been for the AKF movement.
Even more than that, I realized that one day I would be able to turn my own experience into something positive. If Jared could share his struggles with the world, surely I could share my own experience with the few people in my community. This new attitude and determination led to a number of speeches and conversations around my college campus about the importance of mental health. I’ve talked to do many people now openly about it and have become an advocate. I’m so thankful for the friendships that I have formed and the opinions I’ve changed because of the strength another person gave me by just saying “Me too”.
What started as a t-shirt campaign has turned into a movement and that movement has also become a promise for many SPN fans. I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude for the AKF campaign. It’s changed what the SPNFamily has meant to me and it is an experience that I will never forget. I love you, Jared. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. –Lauren
The AKF movement was a big part of a reconciliation with a dear friend of mine. We were very close for a number of years but we had drifted apart, mainly (as I discovered later) because of her depression. We reconnected through a mutual appreciation of Supernatural, and she later confided in me how much Jared and AKF meant to her. Before that point, I’m sorry to say I hadn’t even known she was struggling. I thought I had done something to make her want to stay away. It’s something we still struggle with, but at least I know what she’s going through now and she knows that I will always be there for her.
I’m so thankful for Jared and the AKF campaign; this movement truly does save lives. Thank you, Jared, for reaching my friend when I couldn’t. I can never repay you for that. Congratulations on three years of this amazing movement, and I know it will continue for many, many more. – Lisa
Jared’s AKF campaigns have changed a lot of lives within the SPNFamily. When he came forward with his campaign back in 2015 and began to talk openly about his depression, it made me really take stock in myself and how I was handling my own anxiety and depression. For the first time, here was someone I looked up to and admired admitting he needed help too and that getting help was okay and not something to be afraid of. I’d been terrified for a long time about seeking help in any form, whether it was a counselor or a teacher or medication or what. I never felt like I could admit I was anything less than 100% perfectly okay all the time. I couldn’t admit I was scared, or broken, or hurting, or lost. But here was someone who on the outside always looked happy, always seemed at 100%, admitting he wasn’t.
Thanks to AKF and a dear friend, I sought out a counselor for the first time in my life, seeking help with my own mental health. Working with her helped me realize a lot about myself and how I was handling stressors in my life and how that was translating into my anxiety and depression. I also learned how and what to let go of, rather than letting things build up to a breaking point (where what usually got broken was me). I learned to be more open and accepting of myself and more willing to admit when I needed help. Old habits die hard, so I fall down sometimes and it’s hard to get back up. But the failure is not in the falling down, it’s in the staying down.
Life is going to knock you down. It’s going to throw challenges in your way, and not all of those challenges will be physical.
If you take one thing away from this, I would like it to be that it’s okay to admit you aren’t 100%. It’s okay to admit you need help. Don’t be afraid like I was and suffer in silence. Seek trained mental health professionals, whether it be a counselor or a therapist or a psychologist. Reach out. And Always Keep Fighting.
Congratulations, sir, on three years. Thank you for all you’ve done for the SPN Family and for the greater cause of promoting mental health. –Elizabeth
Alana King also made this Youtube video about the history of the Always Keep Fighting campaigns and movement:
Happy anniversary, Jared. Thank you so much for a campaign that has touched so many lives and opened up the conversation about mental health and all its stigmas. Thank you.
What does AKF mean to you? How has the movement inspired you or changed your life or the life of someone you love?
Tell us in the comments below.