Supernatural star Jared Padalecki, who has openly struggled with depression, was overwhelmed at Comic-Con on Sunday when fans paid tribute to his mental health battle.
More than 7,000 fans lit candles or raised their phone screens in the audience during the question and answer portion of Padalecki’s panel. As they raised their “candles” they shouted, “Always keep fighting!”
The message was a reference to the actor’s Always Keep Fighting campaign, which was set up to support people struggling with depression, addiction, or suicidal thoughts.
“This is so touching and humbling and honoring,” Padalecki told his fans, per Us Weekly. “I don’t have the proper words to say thank you or how humbled and honored and excited I am and keep it up, guys. Thank y'all so much.”
Padalecki later posted the following on Twitter:
Fans of the 32-year-old were concerned in early May when he sent out cryptic tweets, canceling scheduled appearances.
He followed that up with another message:
Padalecki recently told Variety that he struggles with depression, and said he began to feel better after taking a step back from his hectic work schedule.
“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,” he said.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 3 to 5 percent of people suffer from depression at any given time, and the lifetime risk is 17 percent. The condition is often treated through cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. But while we don’t know what type of treatment Padalecki has undergone, if any, outreach from fans seems to have helped on some level. He later issued the following tweet:
If Padalecki was impacted by positive affirmations, could they be helpful for other people suffering from depression?
Absolutely, says clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, PhD, author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy.
Positive affirmations can help people who are feeling depressed by getting them to change their focus, he tells Yahoo Health: “When someone is depressed, nearly all of their mental energy goes toward negative thoughts and feelings. Changing the focus of one’s thoughts can have a chain reaction from thoughts to feelings to actions.”
Positive feedback can move people with depression along in this chain and help rework the way they perceive the world and themselves, says licensed clinical psychologist Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Changing a person’s thoughts can impact their feelings, he explains, so by hearing more balanced and self-affirming thoughts as well as thinking them, a person can often feel better as a result.
How can you tell if someone is clinically depressed? Rego tells Yahoo Health that someone is typically depressed if he or she has symptoms for at least two weeks (including difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, low energy, and thoughts of life not being worth living) and these symptoms have an impact on the ability to function at home, at work, or socially.
Have a loved one struggling with depression? In addition to encouraging them to seek treatment, Rego says there are several types of affirmations you can provide that can help:
Validating statements: Trying to let the person know how hard it must be for them, and that their problems are real.
Accepting statements: Letting the person know that you’re there for them no matter what.
Encouraging statements: Gently pushing the person to keep trying, despite how they might feel.
Kindness goes a long way, too, Michaelis says: “Just letting someone know that you care about them can have a major impact.”
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