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Hayden Panettiere refuses to be silent about her battle with postpartum depression.

The 26-year-old Nashville star confirmed in October that she had voluntarily checked into a treatment center as she continued to struggle with the illness following the birth of her daughter Kaya, whom she welcomed with fiancé Wladimir Klitschko in December 2014. 

"It made my life better," Panettiere told me at the Critics' Choice Awards about going public with her struggles. "I do feel and hope it's made other people's lives better and more of an understanding because postpartum depression was not something that I ever understood. You could never understand it unless you have a personal involvement with it.

"I didn't realize how much of a stigma it had about it," she said.

Hayden Panettiere

AP Photo

She also said she's learned a lot in the last few months, more than she ever thought she would.

"I've been doing this for so long and I feel like I have been hiding who I was really am and was just afraid, terrified that someone was going to judge, someone wasn't going to like something that I said, something that I wore, something I did," Panettiere said.

But she is ready to be comfortable in her own skin. "I want to put out a good example for my daughter and tell her that she could be anyone she wants to be, she does not have to be afraid that somebody's not going to like it because no matter what you do, there's always going to be somebody who doesn't like it," Panettiere said. "I was floored by the positive response and really happy I could stand up for the women who are out there suffering from this and let them know it's OK, they're not alone. It doesn't mean they're weak.

"It doesn't mean they're a bad mom," she continued. "It doesn't mean they're strange and that they could get help if they need it."

For more information about postpartum depression and treatment, go to postpartumprogress.com.