For more than 10 years, Gary Mendell sought the right treatments and medical care for his son, Brian, who struggled with the disease of addiction. Gary and his family exhaustively vetted rehab centers, therapies, and physicians in their search for support, guidance, and help. As the disease advanced they were distraught by the lack of readily available research and resources for families like theirs.
Through it all, Brian, loving and compassionate, wished nobody had to suffer from this devastating disease and feel so alone, ashamed, helpless, and in such tremendous pain.
Tragically in October of 2011, Brian took his life. He was 25 years old and 13 months clean.
In the months that followed, inspired by the compassion of his beloved late son, Mendell left his career as a business executive – a role he had held for more than 25 years – and set out to learn what could be done to prevent others from experiencing the heartbreaking loss and destruction of this insidious disease. He met with leading experts in addiction and discovered a huge gap in patient advocacy. Unlike other leading diseases, addiction had no national organization to help families navigate treatment, put research into practice, and advocate for public policy changes.
Heartbroken but committed, Mendell realized that while he had to accept the reality and finality of his son’s death, he could not rest until he attempted to change the things he knew could be done. Making a promise to his beloved late son, Mendell founded Shatterproof (originally known as Brian’s Wish) with a personal commitment of $5 million and the goal of transforming the way addiction is prevented and treated, as well as ending the stigma associated with it.
The essence of this promise was articulated in a prominent speech Mendell delivered at a Clinton Health Matters Conference in January 2013. “Enough. Enough. No more research ignored. No more Americans suffering alone, feeling ashamed because they have a disease. No more lives wasted.” (See the video below.)
“I wish I could tell you the anguish dulls with time,” Mendell also stated in his speech at the Clinton Health Matters Conference. “But it intensifies in me with the knowledge that my son died of a disease that is preventable, but that we do not prevent; that is treatable, but that we do not treat; that is undeniable, but that we continually deny.”
Shatterproof is building a national movement to decisively tackle the disease of addiction to alcohol and other drugs and bridge the enormous gap in addiction resources. This bold, new organization will focus its efforts around four strategic pillars: unite and empower all Americans to fight this disease; educate the public about the disease to end the stigma; advocate for change in public policy to bring down barriers to effective prevention, treatment, and recovery; and fund research to identify and put into practice evidence-based programs and strategies.
Shatterproof’s vision is an America transformed … an America where parents possess critical resources and information early on to protect their children from the clutches of addiction, where leading academic research is applied in the real-world, where addiction is treated like a chronic disease – not a choice, and where families struggling with the disease of addiction no longer face discrimination and judgment, but instead are treated with compassion and given the resources they need to heal.
It is too late for Brian Mendell and his family, but it is not too late for countless others. We will conquer this devastating disease.
Watch Gary Mendell’s speech at the Clinton Health Matters Conference