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Why Jared Padalecki's Battle With Depression Deserves The Biggest Birthday Present Of All

The "biggest present" being joy, love and acceptance. Obviously.

This Sunday (July 19), "Supernatural" star Jared Padalecki will officially reach a major life milestone: his 33rd year on Planet Earth.

Okay, okay -- so maybe 33 isn't exactly one of those birthdays to write home about. But the thing is, after the year Padalecki has had, he fully deserves to take a step back, spend time with his family, and celebrate his damn self for being one of the bravest celebrities in media this year for going public with his battle with depression.

Why is that brave, you ask? Simple: because living with the stigma of struggling with depression -- with any mental illness, really -- can be just as soul-crushingly awful as dealing with the depression itself. Even if you're a super-cool, super-famous celebrity with legions of fans.

Now of course, Padalecki has access to things that other people coping with mental illness don't have, like endless amounts of money for treatment and the ability to take weeks off to unwind. But when he "came out" as depressed earlier this year, he had to have fully known that the stigma exists for him, too -- because, when you're a manly-man actor who leads one of the manly-manliest shows on television, how could you possibly be depressed? Shouldn't he just go home and cry into his piles of money? (No, he shouldn't. And yes, I've already seen this exact argument tweeted about Padalecki on the interwebs. By jerks.)

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The pressure to maintain a rugged, emotion-free masculine image on such a public platform is something I will (thankfully) never in my life understand, but I imagine that it must be very tiring, and I do very well understand what it's like to live with clinical depression. And what's really so crucial about Padalecki's decision to make his battle public is that he has millions upon millions of teenage fans... fans at that time in their life when it's so, so critical for them to feel understood. Judging from these same fans' response to Padalecki at San Diego Comic-Con -- over 7,000 of them lit candles at the "Supernatural" panel in his honor -- they are pretty dang grateful for his honesty.

"From the very bottom of my heart and my soul, thank you so much," Padalecki wrote on Facebook after the event. "I will never forget this day. I will never forget the love that I felt, and still feel. And, to everybody who held a light for me, please know that I hold my light for you. Though I happened to be the one sitting on stage, I am but one small light in a see (sic) of thousands. TOGETHER, we can and will make a difference! Keep letting your light shine. I will do the same. And, keep fighting. Always Keep Fighting."

The "Always Keep Fighting," of course, refers to the T-shirt campaign Padalecki launched in full support of To Write Love on her Arms, which supports people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. And truly, I cannot reiterate how crucial something like this would have been for me in my teen years -- like, could you even IMAGINE if Buffy or Angel or Spike had spoken publicly about the very same issues I was dealing with so honestly?! -- and how crucial it must be for teen (and adult) "Supernatural" fans who are feeling alone in their battle with depression.

Even the teens that do have supportive friends and family behind them -- which is vital, obviously -- must feel pretty damn safe and supported knowing that not only does one of their favorite Hollywood celebrities share their struggle, but he's led them to an invaluable support group of fellow fans that are dealing with depression as well. Padalecki's open and honest support for the mental illness community is both admirable and inspiring, which is why we hope his big 3-3 is filled with as much joy as humanly possible. You deserve it, pal.