International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

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.

Policy Implications of the ISTSS Strategic Plan

In 2011, ISTSS released its Strategic Plan, which clarifies the vision and mission for the organization and identifies six major goals for the Society, including:

  1. Professional Community

  2. Dissemination and Collaboration

  3. Societal Impact

  4. Promotion of Science and Clinical Practice

  5. Global Relationships

  6. Organizational Excellence


Specifically, goals 2 (Dissemination and Collaboration) and 3 (Societal Impact) include objectives that are directly related to ISTSS’ commitment to public policy. These policy-related goals and objectives help to guide all policy and advocacy efforts of the Society. 

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.  Among the policy and advocacy efforts that ISTSS has 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

"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