In 2014, Samantha Williams saw herself living in her minivan with good-for-nothing to fill the stillnes except the voices of men hunting the supernatural.
Earlier that year, Williams had moved to Oklahoma from Houston to escape an abusive relation with her parent and in hopes of begin over anew. Instead, she found herself living on the street–and sleep in her car–for the first time.
“That’s when your best friend were talking about Supernatural and gave me her Netflix account, ” she said. “I binge-watched Supernatural every night. It maintained me calm and I wasn’t scared to stay by myself in my minivan.”
On Sept. 14, 2014, Williams moved to Alabama to live with her aunt. Life grew more stable, but the then-4 6-year-old said her uneasiness didn’t subside because she was bullied by her boss at her new chore and felt like the loved ones around her didn’t know what it is she used fight with.
“One day, I was going to go home and just objective it, ” she said.
But when Williams returned home from task that evening, she used was welcomed by a T-shirt she forgotten she had ordered from a suicide awareness campaign founded by Jared Padalecki, the actor who plays Sam Winchester in CW’s Supernatural .
The shirt said, “Always Keep Fighting.”
“I started crying and knew it was a epitomize, ” she said. “That was someone or something tell people to stay alive.”
Williams is one of the thousands of devotees who is not simply located solace in Padalecki’s original mental health awareness campaigns but reached in droves to Supernatural conventions throughout 2015 to thank the Tv sun and share their stories.
It was these followers who invigorated the latest initiative founded by Supernatural starrings Padalecki, Misha Collins, and Jensen Ackles. It’s called the Family Crisis Support Network, a “community support system that individuals can turn to, to assistance or help those suffered by mental health issues, ” according to its website.
Collins–who was unavailable for comment for this story–told Entertainment Weekly in 2016, when the network was still in its crowdfunding stage, that the actors were inspired to start it because of testimonies they hear from devotees.
“We have occasion to meet thousands and thousands of Supernatural fans and at every event, every one of us encounters as many as a dozen people who share really heart-rending narratives about self-harm or addiction or depression or suicide endeavors, ” Collins said. “We assure a lot of people with tattoos of semicolons on themselves–the semicolon is where the author could’ve chosen to end a convict but instead chose to carry it on so it’s a very potent mark for somebody who’s strove with near-death situations and forged on.”
Williams attended a Supernatural convention in Tennessee that time and shared with Padalecki the story of how his campaign T-shirt saved her life.
“Jared gave me the biggest hug and was just telling me,’ Always preserve fighting because you are worth it, ’” she said. “He said,’ You are worth everything. Every little breath you take, you are worth it. If you promise me that you are able to always stop fighting, we will always be there for you.’”
Now, at merely 14 months age-old, the network hopes of facilitate such tough discussions that seem to happen within the fandom daily.
“For whatever reason, it seems to be something that is prevalent, or at least foams to the surface in our fandom, ” Collins to EW. “But if you are part of a community and you know that that community is offering have been instrumental in a certain way and it’s something that you know is there, I think it might be really helpful.”
While it may seem odd that thousands of individuals grappling with mental illness such as nervousnes and depression help find consolation in a 12 series-old repugnance TV series, fans–including 34 -year-old Ashley Romans in Seattle–say the connection is clear.
“The show is about family and it’s about heart. There are different kinds of love in it, and it’s mostly about not only surviving but substantiating one another, ” Romans said. “I have a mental illness myself and you have to survive it every day. I say survive–rather than oppose or struggle–because I think that’s a lot what the show is like; in every episode, they’re surviving something bad but the government had each other.”
The support network–which exists under the umbrella of Collins’ non-profit Random Acts–uses partnerships with To Write Love On Her Arms, IMAlive, and Pop Culture Hero Coalition, to provide training opportunities for volunteers who wish to be crisis responders and immediate access to support lifelines for individuals in crisis. It will soon likewise offer training programs for those affected by cyberbullying.
Alyx Ellsaesser, a 24 -year-old in Alabama, is only one of the young fans who showed the actors a semicolon tattoo at a convention. She said she throw in an application to become a volunteer for the Family Crisis Support Network as a route to “pay it forward.”
Ellsaesser suffered from depression long before she found the Supernatural fandom and attempted to take her working life in high school. She said she never told anyone until Padalecki ran public with his own mental health issues and founded the Always Keep Fighting campaign.
“He established me more comfy in recognizing the fact that I’m not sustaining, I am defeating and I have to conquer every day, ” she said.
The tight-knit Supernatural community has flourished on the internet ever since the prove debuted in 2005. Even though the internet is systematically criticized for allowing cyberbullying and toxicity, followers of the TV show–whose home base is still on Tumblr even as the community has spread throughout Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram–said social media has actually connected devotees across the world to come together and corroborate one another.
“It’s an unspoken regulation on Tumblr that if you ever interpret a post with crisis hotline amounts or websites, you reblog it, ” said Tessa Reeder, an 18 -year-old fan in Tennessee. “It doesn’t matter what your blog theme is. You could potentially save someone’s life with your reblog.”
Ellsaesser echoed that feeling, adding that she likes how easy it is to merely follow Random Acts, the privately coordinated benevolence founded by Collins, on Twitter and Facebook to share their posts to her followers daily.
“It’s that seven degrees of separation, ” she said. “You is accessible to the world in five minutes if you have people share it out. Social media has played a big its participation in helping me get comfy with reaching out to others.”
After meeting Padalecki a few days and with a giant subsistence working group on Tumblr and Facebook, Williams said she didn’t guess she would ever need to call the Family Crisis Support Network. But as anyone who suffers from a mental illness knows, there are good days and bad periods.
And Williams had an extra bad period recently.
“Things were starting to sneak up on me and was trying to take over and I just couldn’t control it, ” she said. “I didn’t consider I would need the foundation. But when things started crumbling down, I remembered it.”
With the encouragement of other Supernatural fans on Tumblr, Williams called the network’s hotline and received assistance from a fellow fan.
“She told me there used to be people there corroborating me, even if no one else was. She even said,’ If I have to be on the phone with you all darknes I will be, ’” she said. “That’s what I thought was pretty amazing.”
Reeder said her friends who have also contacted the network were drawn to it because it offers the option to text a volunteer, rather than call.
“I reckon the greatest wallop was that my friend currently has somewhere be returned to when she requirement assistance, ” Reeder said. “I likewise find it very helpful for myself because I don’t normally have anyone to turn to when things get bad. I have your best friend on Tumblr, but sometimes it’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who are capable of listen.”
Stories like Williams’, Ellsaesser’s, Reeder’s, and Romans’ aren’t hard to find within the fandom’s network on Tumblr–and they come from all over the world.
Pennsylvanian Taylor Birmingham find solace in the fandom and through Padalecki’s campaigns after her best friend committed suicide in 2015.
Ambre Gibert, from France, said she’s watched the reveal since she was a child and text friends from the fandom who suffer from a mental illness to check in on them daily.
Canadian Samantha Mitchell said the TV present and its fandom has helped her come to terms with an abusive childhood and allowed her to move forward in life.
Beca Marques, from Brazil, said Padalecki’s transparency about his battles invigorated her to go to therapy and open up about her suicidal propensities.
The testimonies go on, endlessly.
Williams said whenever she has a particularly difficult day she recollects the promise she made with Padalecki. That, along with the support system she has found within the fandom, prevents her moving forward.
“I don’t want to ever interrupt that promise. Even though I’ve come close to it, it’s still scary to think that they’ll be mad at me because I broke a promise, ” she said. “I never violate a promise. That’s how they have helped me get over a lot of things, even though I still fight every single day.”