International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Public Education Committee Wrestles With its Position in PTSD Alliance, ISTSS Foundation

Posted 1 January 2000 in StressPoints by Laurie Anne Pearlman, PhD and Edward M. Varra, PhD, Traumatic Stress Institute

The Public Education Committee gathered at the ISTSS Annual Meeting last November in Miami. Laurie Anne Pearlman (chair), Edward Varra (co-chair), David Lilly, Camille Wortman, Elana Newman, Joseph Rudolph, Lucy Berliner, Chris Courtois and ISTSS staff member Liz Elliott met to discuss the formation of two work groups to respond to public education needs of ISTSS.

As public education is one of the principle mandates of ISTSS, the first work group plans to clarify and define what public education means for the organization. This includes explicating the current role of public education in relation to the mission of ISTSS, as well as defining what potential public education holds and what it could mean for the organization in the future. This work group is being spearheaded by Chris Courtois and Jeannie Higgins and Lucy Berliner.

The second work group was formed in order to develop a more systematic and effective process by which to disseminate public education materials. The first task at hand is the continuing distribution of the Childhood Trauma Remembered booklet and its complementary public education brochure. This effort is being led by Joseph Rudolph and includes Elana Newman, Jeannie Higgins and David Lilly.

Any member of ISTSS who is interested in providing input on either of these topics is invited to contact Laurie Anne Pearlman or Edward Varra at e-mail, tsicaap@snet.net; phone, 860/644-2541; or mail, 22 Morgan Farms Drive, South Windsor CT, 06074.

Other topics of discussion included the PTSD Alliance and the ISTSS Foundation. These groups represent newly formed and forming structures that have the potential to be effective vehicles for the continuing public education mandate of ISTSS.

PTSD Alliance
The PTSD Alliance, which includes Vice President Rachel Yehuda as an ISTSS delegate, provides an exciting avenue through which to share the perspectives of ISTSS with other members of the scientific and clinical communities, as well as further educating the public on issues of PTSD and traumatic stress. The Public Education Committee will work closely with Rachel Yehuda to achieve these goals.

The Alliance is an 18-month project that Pfizer Inc. started in June 1999. Pfizer invited representatives from four organizations to join this alliance. The organizations are ISTSS, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Sidran Foundation and Press.

The mission of the Alliance is "to increase awareness and promote a better understanding of the prevalence, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. The PTSD Alliance, a multi-disciplinary group of professional and patient advocacy organizations, provides educational resources to medical and healthcare professionals, at-risk individuals and their families, patients diagnosed with PTSD, and the general public, as well as general consumer and medical and healthcare trade media."

The stated objectives of the Alliance are to (1) "serve as the primary resource on PTSD to the general public and to the medical healthcare community by creating a public service campaign and other public education initiatives, providing educational resources to healthcare and other professionals who serve on the 'front line', and distributing resources through existing networks of professionals and community-based organizations" and (2) "increase understanding and awareness of PTSD and educate consumers and healthcare professionals who treat trauma survivors and PTSD patients about its prevalence, diagnosis and treatment."

This appears to be a good potential opportunity to further the public education mission as an organization. To begin with, the Alliance is going to have an 800 number for PTSD information and resources. How does ISTSS want to be represented with this number? In what other ways do we want to relate to the Alliance?

The Foundation
Similarly, the ISTSS Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by ISTSS, is being formed with one of its primary goals being the provision of programs and education to the public. Laurie Pearlman, as public education committee chair, is a member of the Foundation steering committee.

The mission of the Foundation is to "(1) establish an independent infrastructure through which ISTSS can provide programs and services for the public, (2) secure gifts and grants with which the ISTSS can fulfill its mission and goals serving its members and the public, and (3) support scientific and educational advances through grants and scholarships."

Currently, a steering committee has been appointed to propose a structure for the Foundation. This steering committee will report its conclusions to the ISTSS board of directors in March. The committee members will be in the process of defining how the public education committee and the Foundation will relate to one another. Likewise, committee members may have input into the formation of the Foundation, such as helping to define what kinds of activities the Foundation should be engaged in. Any input or questions that you have regarding these issues would be welcomed.

These two endeavors represent important opportunities for the committee and the society to further the public education mandate on which ISTSS was formed.

Regrettably, committee member Ted Bober, Craig Higson-Smith and Jeannie Higgins were unable to attend the meeting and Berthold Gersons and Brian Litzenberger both recently resigned from the committee.