International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

What is ISTSS's Advocacy Role? Your Opinion Wanted

Posted 1 January 2001 in StressPoints by ISTSS

ISTSS occasionally is asked to take a stand, write a letter or even file a brief on issues political in nature or involving a social advocacy component. In many cases, requests clearly fall within the general framework of ISTSS's interests and goals. For example, ISTSS president Bonnie Green currently is drafting messages in support of a strategic plan proposed by the National Institutes of Health to fund research aimed at reducing or eliminating health disparities for minorities. In letters to NIH and NIMH, she identifies the relevance of trauma for many of these disparities and recommends that trauma exposure feature more prominently in the program announcements (available at This clearly fits with our new mission statement (see box below), for it involves dissemination of knowledge and seeks to advocate on behalf of the entire field of traumatic stress.

In other cases, however, our role is less clear - for example, currently under consideration by the Executive Committee is whether the American states' use of the death penalty is the type of trauma issue for which ISTSS would engage in direct advocacy. Many ISTSS members will recognize how trauma relates to the death penalty both in terms of the apparent unequal application of justice in capital cases, as well as the specific role of trauma in those on death row.

It is important that the board of directors understand the membership's views regarding the boundaries of "advocating for the field" so that this can be reflected in actions taken on behalf of the society.

The board would like to hear your thoughts about the following: What do you think ISTSS should do about issues such as the death penalty? What issues and institutions are suitable targets for our advocacy? How would you define the limits of ISTSS advocacy? Please e-mail your opinion to

Proposed ISTSS Bylaw Amendment

In accordance with the ISTSS bylaws, notice is being given of a proposed bylaw amendment. Approval of the revised bylaw will be by mail ballot of the membership no fewer than 45 days from the date of this notice. Changes in the bylaws are authorized by a majority of those members in good standing who cast a vote. The revision of the ISTSS mission statement - also called the purpose - was initiated at the board's strategic planning session in August 2000. Subsequently, the statement was debated and refined via e-mail discussion. The resulting mission statement was unanimously approved at the board's November 15 meeting in San Antonio. The revised mission statement: The ISTSS is an international, multidisciplinary, professional membership organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about severe stress and trauma. This knowledge includes understanding the scope and consequences of traumatic exposure, preventing traumatic events and ameliorating their consequences, and advocating for the field of traumatic stress. Compare with the existing mission statement: The purpose of this Corporation shall be to promote the advancement of knowledge about the immediate and long-term human consequences of extraordinary events and to promote effective methods of preventing or ameliorating the unwanted consequences of them. This goal shall be accomplished through the recognition of achievement in the advancement of knowledge in the area and through the dissemination of knowledge through discussion, education and the use of knowledge transfer media.