Shatterproof, a national, nonprofit organization, focuses on "reversing the addiction crisis, which is a public health crisis right now," says Lauren Lawson-Zilai, the organization's senior director of media and public relations.
"We do that by transforming addiction treatment, by focusing on legislation, by wanting to stop and end the shame and stigma around addiction and educating and empowering communities," she tells Doug Simon. "Our philosophy is really simple, we do not want another person to die from a treatable and preventable illness, and there are 40 million Americans living with a substance use disorder right now.
Lawson-Zilai says that "PR and marketing professionals have a huge role to play" in achieving that goal.
One key to effective messaging around this issue is remembering that "language matters, words can really destroy or uplift a person," she says. "You often see mental health or substance use disorder characterized as a flaw, which it is not. People don't want to come forward because they're afraid of what people might say or think about them."
To combat that problem, "it's really important for PR professionals to work with their healthcare, nonprofit clients to tell stories. We can tell stories of hope and recovery, stories of losing a loved one. And so, we can really, as PR professionals, help break the stigma and encourage others to ask for help."
In her previous position at Goodwill, Lawson-Zilai says she learned the power of "people-first language. It was really based on that person finding dignity, and purpose, and well-being in their work, which really contributes to mental health. And then, also ensuring that they had the stability and support so that they were stable not only in the workplace but at home. And then third, it's really important to realize that substance use disorder should be treated as a mental health condition, just like you would treat a chronic illness."
She also discusses how employers can really help employees when it comes to these issues. In addition to steering clear of "judgmental or negative behavior," she says that effecive ways to help include "really listening, offering assistance, helping them try to find treatment.
Finally, Lawson-Zilai returns to the importance of using the right languauge in messaging about these issues. "Rather than saying addict, it's a person with a substance use disorder. So, it's really important to focus on the language to lift someone up and be sure that you are using empathetic and positive language.
For more information on the services Shatterproof offers, click here.
Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]