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Home 5 About ISTSS 5 Policy and Advocacy

Policy and Advocacy

Trauma professionals bring rich clinical experience and solid empirical evidence to bear on key questions of how society responds to trauma and the needs of survivors. ISTSS and its members help to inform policy and engage in advocacy to ensure that the voices of those affected by trauma are heard by policymakers at the local, national and international levels.

ISTSS Public Health and Policy Committee

In 2015, ISTSS established the Public Health and Policy Committee. The purpose of the Committee is to review and make timely recommendations to the ISTSS President and the Executive Committee regarding traumatic stress-related public health and policy issues that may warrant attention or action by the Society. The Committee is also responsible for overseeing implementation of the Board of Directors approved recommendations included in the Trauma and Public Health Task Force Report.

ISTSS Historical Commitment to Policy and Advocacy

Since its inception in 1985, ISTSS has provided a forum for sharing research, clinical strategies, and public policy concerns regarding trauma around the world. Policy and advocacy efforts that ISTSS and its members have engaged in include:

ISTSS Public Policy Committee

From 2005-2013, the ISTSS Public Policy Committee served as the organizational body that helped to advise ISTSS leadership on how best to address policy issues that directly related to the ISTSS mission, with priority given to issues of broad global interest and relevance. During its tenure, the Public Policy Committee helped the Society’s leadership to review and consider action on key traumatic stress-related policies and current events.

In addition, the Committee helped to organize ISTSS’ participation as a co-sponsor of an educational briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives on Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Service Members, Veterans and their Families: Innovative Strategies for Prevention, Treatment and Recovery and coordinated the submission of written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on the issue of sexual assault in the Peace Corps. Public Policy Committee chairs included ISTSS members Matthew Friedman, MD, PhD (2005-2007) and Diane Elmore, PhD, MPH (2007-2013).

United Nations Participation

From 1993-2014, ISTSS participated in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) to engage in education and advocacy to guide practice and public policy on issues including human rights; violence, war and refugees; crime and justice; rights of women and children; health and mental health; emergency planning; and poverty and development concerns.  ISTSS UN representatives included Yael Danieli, PhD and Elizabeth Carl, PhD.

  • These representatives regularly participated in meetings and special events of the Congress of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Committees, including the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW), Committee for Mental Health (CMH), Human Rights Committee, Education Committee and the NGO Alliance on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (ACPCJ). In addition, they coordinated ISTSS involvement in the following activities:
  • Helped to organize events that educated UN bodies about trauma and its impact
  • Signed a draft of the Universal Declaration on the Human Right to Peace
  • Worked with the Victims' Rights Working Group (VRWG) of the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and regularly addressed Member States regarding victims' rights and care, victims' role in the Court, and the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV)
  • Served as invited speakers at events such as Women and Peace, or the High Level Panel Discussion on Reintegrating Children Affected by Armed Conflict
  • Participated in the extensive consultation and review processes that lead to consensus documents and policy initiatives such as the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings
  • Joined the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adding the support of ISTSS to hundreds of individuals, academic institutions and partner organizations seeking U.S. ratification and implementation of the CRC

ISTSS Joins Campaign in Opposition to Policies to Restrict Scientific Meeting Attendance

ISTSS joined numerous other organizations in a campaign expressing opposition to the Conference Accountability Act (S.1347).This legislation would prohibit a federal agency from paying the travel expenses for more than 50 employees stationed in the U.S. to attend any conference occurring outside the U.S., unless the Deputy Secretary and the Chief Financial Officer of the agency submit a written certification to the U.S. Congress that attendance for such employees is in the national interest.

This legislation was passed by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2014. A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives (GSA Act of 2013 - H.R. 313), was passed by the full House in 2013. If this legislation is enacted, it would place further burdens on already onerous restrictions that have impeded U.S. federal employees from participating in scientific meetings, such as those hosted by ISTSS.

ISTSS Statement on the DSM-V

In 2011, ISTSS submitted a statement to the DSM-V Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive (OC) Spectrum, Post-traumatic, and Dissociative Disorders Work Group to support the designation of an umbrella category of "Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders".

ISTSS Member Testifies Before U.S. Congress

In 2011, ISTSS member Karestan Koenan, PhD testified before the U.S. House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee about the epidemic of sexual violence and victim blaming culture of the Peace Corps.

ISTSS Members Inform Legal Decision Making in the UK

In 2011, ISTSS members Jane Herlihy, PhD and Stuart Turner, MD, and their colleagues have undertaken systematic research into the ways that judges making asylum claim determinations in the UK understand the narratives told by asylum seekers, who have often experienced significant trauma. The results of this work are disseminated to inform legal decision making.

ISTSS Testimony on Sexual Assault in the Peace Corps

In 2011, ISTSS submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on the issue of sexual assault in the Peace Corps.

ISTSS Co-Sponsors Briefing in U.S. Congress

In 2008, ISTSS co-sponsored an educational briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives entitled Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Service Members, Veterans, and their Families: Innovative Strategies for Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery.

ISTSS Members Work with European Union to Advance Trauma Care

From 2007-2009, members of ISTSS participated in The European Network for Traumatic Stress Training and Practice (TENTS-TP) process, co-founded by the European Union.  The TENTS-TP has had an impact on policy and practice by creating a core curriculum and guidelines for training and by building Europe-wide networks of expertise on the psychosocial management of victims of natural and other disasters.

ISTSS Statement on Torture

Torture is a pressing national and international issue that has direct implications for ISTSS' central mission to reduce traumatic stressors and their immediate and long-term consequences. In 2005, ISTSS approved an official statement on torture and its impact, and the special roles and ethical obligations of health and social care professionals in responding to torture.

The statement was drafted by ISTSS member Stuart Turner, MD, with input from the ISTSS Executive Committee and approved by the Board of Directors. ISTSS member concerns brought to the Board of Directors by the Society Ombudsperson were a key catalyst in this action by the Society.

ISTSS Letter in Response to the Proposed Revisions to the Common Law

The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed revisions to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (also known as the Common Rule) outlined in the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Federal Register on September 8, 2015. These revisions, which are intended “to modernize, strengthen, and make more effective the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects that was promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991” are critically important to ensuring better protection of human subjects involved in research while facilitating valuable research and reducing burden, delay, and ambiguity for investigators. Read Letter

Interested in Policy and Advocacy?

ISTSS members interested in policy can contact the ISTSS Public Health and Policy Committee.

"Most are familiar with the remarkable emergence of recognition and treatment for trauma patients, including survivors of the full range of traumatic events -- war, sexual abuse, assault, disasters, torture, etc. What is too easily forgotten is that these developments followed years of advocacy by public officials, mental health professionals, patients and others...There is no trauma field without advocacy."
-- Arthur Blank, MD, 1997 Traumatic Stress Points editor