Jared Padalecki, star of the CW’s hit show Supernatural, has started a t-shirt campaign to support the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), whose mission is to give hope and find help to those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts.
Initially, the project had a goal of selling 1,000 shirts, which bear his likeness and the words “Always Keep Fighting.” However, it quickly surpassed its goal 23 times over, selling over 23,000 shirts.
When asked about the overwhelming support, Padalecki told PEOPLE, “It’s really hard to put into words. It’s been amazing. Hopefully it’s helping to destigmatize these issues, because it’s all around us. It’s ubiquitous, and people hide it. If somebody has cancer, they’re not embarrassed to have cancer — they know it’s not their fault. They know it’s a struggle. But, for some reason, if someone says they’re depressed, they assume that people are going to look at them like they have three heads. Hopefully, this is helping to start a conversation.”
Stephen Amell, star of another hit CW show Arrow, told Padalecki about a few of the fundraising campaigns he himself ran, and how remarkable the volume of support, money, and awareness is raised by fans. So when Padalecki received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing him that a friend of his for 10 years had committed suicide, he knew what to do.
“Crowdsourcing and social media have made it easier than ever to raise funds via a t-shirt sale! This a great cause and something I hold close to my heart,” said Eric Uzelac, vice president of theshirtprinter.com. “Suicide of a close friend made me realize how real depression is and that it’s not something that one can just snap out of.”
Padalecki chose the slogan, “Always Keep Fighting,” because it was a “proactive approach.” One of his former co-workers, who was sober for 20 years, told him that it was a daily fight. Initially, they were going to go with “Never Give In,” but that “just puts somebody on defense, like their only options are to get beaten down or to quit.”
“People who are dealing with depression, addiction or suicidal thoughts or mental illness … they’re strong,” said the actor. “You’re strong because you’ve been in this fight and you wake up thinking you’re going to beat it again today.”
Though the campaign ended on March 18, TWLOHA has an online store, where those who want to help can purchase apparel and goods that can spread the non-profit’s positive message.