International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

President's Message

Posted 1 March 2008 in StressPoints by Stuart Turner, MD, MA, FRCP, FRCPsych

As I write this, I am very aware that the deadline  for abstract submissions to the annual meeting is tomorrow, March 14th. This year’s theme is "Terror and its Aftermath." I hope that as many as possible members of ISTSS will submit material for the meeting. It is, after all, your meeting in that almost all the program content comes from you.

I am delighted to announce that this year our Plenary Keynote Speaker will be Cherif Bassiouni, distinguished research professor of law at DePaul University College of Law and president emeritus of the International Human Rights Law Institute. He has held very high office in the United Nations, for example as chair of the Security Council's Commission to Investigate War Crimes in the former Yugoslavia, as vice-chair of the General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court and as the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan. As a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his outstanding achievements, he is in a pre-eminent position to address the importance of human rights in our practice. 

When I reflect on what it means to be president of a society like ISTSS, it seems to me that my role is to push forward the wishes of the majority of members (the democratic principle) but at the same time to defend the interests of minority groups (the human rights principle). In our professional work, we are more aware than most of the needs of those who may face serious emotional problems, those in need of protection from deliberate violence and the many other groups of at risk trauma survivors. This is where a human rights framework is essential – to defend the interests of people who may otherwise be disadvantaged. It is an underpinning for all that we do therapeutically. I hope that it will be an important element of our discussions in Chicago as we confront the problems of terrorization not only in the face of large-scale terrorist violence, but also in the more domestic settings of homes, families and communities. 

The 2008 program chair, Jane Herlihy, DClinPsych, is also planning an important series of discussions at the annual meeting on the changes we might want to see in DSM-V. We are privileged that Kathy Phillips, chair of the APA Anxiety Disorders Work Group, will be present and will inform us about the review process. We expect to hold a series of presentations and mini-debates on topical issues that we feel may be relevant to the work of this important committee (and which, perhaps more than anything, may affect our practice and research for years to come). 

Whether formally presenting or not, we hope that you will plan to attend the annual meeting of your society this November, join in the discussions, inspire others with what you do and be inspired and refreshed yourself.