Shatterproof Leads the Charge in Eradicating Addiction Stigma Across America

If you’re trying to build a social movement, it helps to study others’ success.

Gary Mendell started Shatterproof to change the way addiction is viewed in America. I interviewed Gary about how Shatterproof is measurably reducing stigma, state by state, with media campaigns designed to reduce the stigma of addiction, because I wanted to share his organization’s remarkable impact. This is a real-world, real-time example of the Collective Impact model applied in collaboration with states and community-based organizations.

In our interview, Gary Mendell goes into granular detail about the process  Shatterproof uses to take aim at stigma related to mental health and substance use disorders. The campaigns, rooted in extensive research, focus on four types of stigma, which he describes in the interview. Shatterproof collaborates with community-based organizations to tailor initiatives to specific state and community needs. The campaigns’ content delivers research-informed education through video stories and influencer campaigns. (You’ll find links to resources at the end of this article.)

To measure the campaigns’ results, Shatterproof developed a comprehensive Shatterproof Addiction Stigma Index, which assesses change in the four types of stigma. Results from the campaign's implementation in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California, Georgia, and Michigan have shown significant reductions on all measures within the first year. 

Gary was driven to take on this Grand Challenge because of his personal experience with the consequences of addiction. His son Brian tried drugs and alcohol as a teenager, which led to addiction. For almost 10 years, Brian battled this disease and its cycle of shame, isolation, and failure. He and his family fought to navigate the complex web of treatment programs and therapies. A loving and compassionate young man through it all, Brian wished others did not have to suffer from this devastating disease. Sadly, Brian took his life when he was in his early 20s. Transforming his grief into activism, Gary founded Shatterproof in 2013. Since then, Shatterproof has become a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis. 

Shatterproof's approach is data-driven and marked by a commitment to measurable impact, with leading indicators such as video retention rate and content engagements guiding the campaign's success.

The interview underscores the importance of addressing mental health stigma as a key driver in combating the addiction crisis. Gary emphasizes the need for collective action, education, and policy changes at the state and community levels to make lasting impacts. His organization is proving we CAN change public perception and support for those affected by addiction.

Gary invites those interested in implementing the campaign in their state to reach out to him at


Solving social problems is inherently SOCIAL-it happens in community. I’m looking for researchers, academicians, and those on the front lines who are battling overwhelming issues. The community will include leaders in all aspects of society: nonprofits, corporations, government agencies, independent agents, and thought leaders.

If you’re passionate about Grand Challenges or would like to be, follow me here on Medium, where I am publishing on Grand Challenges. Let’s work together to address these sticky, systemic, complex, and wicked issues once and for all, for the sake of future generations of life on Earth.

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