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Marit-headshot-Sept-2022.pngDear ISTSS members,
Time flies. We are only a few weeks before our Annual Meeting. Very soon we will see many of you in Los Angeles, where we will have the opportunity to learn from our colleagues and the latest traumatic stress science and clinical insights.
As the President of ISTSS, the theme of this year’s meeting, Scalable Strategies to Address the Impact of Trauma Worldwide, not entirely coincidentally, also is one of the main topics that I focus on in my traumatic stress research.
When I started research, around the turn of the century, I focused on early interventions for people within days and weeks after being exposed to common traumatic events. The idea that we could develop a simple strategy to prevent psychological problems was extremely appealing but turned out to be a bit too naive. The acute response after a traumatic experience might be so complex that it is unlikely that we will ever find one cognitive or pharmacological method that can neutralize the effects of the experience for everyone, without causing unwanted effects simultaneously. What struck me even more is that, at least for the more common traumatic events, many people are reluctant to receive counselling or take a medication and prefer to wait and see whether symptoms decrease naturally. In many areas, the demand for these interventions, at least from the point of view of people receiving them, may not be that high in the first place.
That is why I started to focus more on the other form of prevention, which we mainly know from the broader public mental health field, such as the depression field. Namely accessible treatment methods, offered in the primary health field, by non-professional helpers, to address common mental health problems following adversities, with less of a focus on the acute phase following trauma, and more so on scalability and acceptability for larger groups of affected people at any time point following the traumatic experiences. Much innovation in this area came from low-income countries, with research carried out by local research teams. We can also put this knowledge to good use in our high-income countries, where healthcare is not always easily accessible to specific groups, such as refugees and labor migrants.
This year’s Presidential Panel at the Annual Meeting will include some distinguished speakers in the field of scalable interventions for adults and children. We will have Kenneth Carswell from the World Health Organization (WHO) presenting on the WHO task-sharing and digital interventions. Eirini Karyotaki will present her meta-analytical studies using individual patient trial data examining task-sharing interventions worldwide and will also focus on what intervention works best for whom. Judy Bass will share experiences and lessons learned with scaling up with task-shifting interventions. Finally, Usman Hamdani will focus on the WHO scalable intervention for children, and will discuss his perspectives on future innovations in research. I look forward to you joining us for this final session of the Annual Meeting and sharing your comments and questions.
I look forward to discussing these and many other topics with you at this exciting Annual Meeting, which captures the diversity of themes that we care so deeply about within the traumatic stress field.