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Rhitu Chatterjee

Rhitu Chatterjee is a health correspondent with NPR, with a focus on mental health. In addition to writing about the latest developments in psychology and psychiatry, she reports on the prevalence of different mental illnesses and new developments in treatments.

Chatterjee explores the underlying causes of mental health disorders – the complex web of biological, socio-economic, and cultural factors that influence how mental health problems manifest themselves in different groups – and how our society deals with the mentally ill. She has a particular interest in mental health problems faced by the most vulnerable, especially pregnant women and children, as well as racial minorities and undocumented immigrants.

Chatterjee has reported on how chronic stress from racism has a devastating impact on pregnancy outcomes in black women. She has reported on the factors that put adolescents and youth on a path to school shootings, and what some schools are doing keep them off that path. She has covered the rising rates of methamphetamine and opioid use by pregnant women, and how some cities are helping these women stay off the drugs, have healthy pregnancies, and raise their babies on their own. She has also written about the widespread levels of loneliness and lack of social connection in America and its consequences of people's physical health.

Before starting at NPR's health desk in 2018, Chatterjee was an editor for NPR's The Salt, where she edited stories about food, culture, nutrition, and agriculture. In that role, she also produced a short online food video series called "Hot Pot: A Dish, A Memory," which featured dishes from a particular country as made by a person who grew up with the dish. The series was produced in collaboration with NPR's Goats & Soda blog.

Prior to that, Chatterjee reported on current affairs from New Delhi for PRI's The World, and covered science and health news for Science Magazine. Before that, she was based in Boston as a science correspondent with PRI's The World.

Throughout her career, Chatterjee has reported on everything from basic scientific discoveries to issues at the intersection of science, society, and culture. She has covered the legacy of the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984, the world's largest industrial disaster. She has reported on a mysterious epidemic of chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka and India. While in New Delhi, she also covered women's issues. Her reporting went beyond the breaking news headlines about sexual violence to document the underlying social pressures faced by Indian girls and women.

She has won two reporting grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and was awarded a certificate of merit by the Gabriel Awards in 2014.

Chatterjee has mentored student fellows by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, as well as young journalists for the Society of Environmental Journalists' mentorship program. She has also taught science writing at the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop.

She did her undergraduate work in Darjeeling, India. She has two master's degrees—a Master of Science in biotechnology from Visva-Bharati in India, and a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

For the first time since 2014, death rates in the U.S. declined and life expectancy showed a modest uptick, according to new data released in two reports Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life expectancy at birth in 2018 was 78.7 years, 0.1 year longer than the previous year.

Sarah Edrie says she was about 33 when she started to occasionally get a sudden, hot, prickly feeling that radiated into her neck and face, leaving her flushed and breathless. "Sometimes I would sweat. And my heart would race," she says. The sensations subsided in a few moments and seemed to meet the criteria for a panic attack. But Edrie, who has no personal or family history of anxiety, was baffled.

Teri Hines was in her mid-40s when she started to notice that her body was changing.

Her period became irregular and more intense. "It increased in frequency, it increased in intensity and it increased in duration," she says.

She began to have hot flashes, gained weight and her energy levels took a nosedive.

"I just did not have the energy to do the things I wanted to do," she says, like the long morning walks she loved to take with her dogs, or planning solo travel.

As a young woman, Jennifer Ford struggled with anxiety and depression. When she got pregnant, her physician advised her to stay on the antidepressant she took to manage her symptoms.

Her first pregnancy and childbirth went smoothly, she says, but things were different after she gave birth the second time. "It's when I hit my wall," Ford says.

She remembers feeling overcome by grief immediately after she got home.

"I couldn't even communicate a full sentence about how I was feeling," recalls Ford. "All I could do was cry."

Updated on Jan. 2 at 4:55 p.m. ET

California can now begin enforcing new minimum standards for light bulb efficiency, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. It's the latest split between the state and the Trump administration, which has moved to reverse the same standards on a national level.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Efforts to prevent suicide get a boost in 2020. Federal budget has more money for the National Suicide Prevention hotline, and the FCC says it will designate a three-digit number for that line - not 911, but 988. NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee has more.

Most people living in Western, developed countries are psychologically distinct from the rest of the world.

For one, they tend to be more individualistic and think of themselves as being independent of other people.

Childhood trauma causes serious health repercussions throughout life and is a public health issue that calls for concerted prevention efforts. That's the takeaway of a report published Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jennifer had a rough start to her pregnancy. "I had really intense food aversion and really intense nausea," says the 28-year-old mother of a five-month-old girl. "I wasn't eating at all."

She was losing weight instead of gaining it, she says, and couldn't even keep down her prenatal vitamins or iron pills, which she needed to deal with anemia. (NPR is only using her first name to protect her privacy.)

There's fresh evidence that eating a healthy diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits highly processed foods, can help reduce symptoms of depression.

The political headlines have been relentless lately. Calls for impeaching the president. Debates over health care, immigration and gun control. Fights over who tweeted what.

Discussions of these issues can quickly get heated and toxic. They can affect relationships and even your health, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

Updated 5:01 p.m.

More than 3 million women experienced rape as their first sexual encounter, according to a new study, which surveyed women ages 18 to 44 in the U.S. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that most respondents were adolescents when they were raped. It also found that these women were more likely to suffer worse long-term health outcomes than women who had sex voluntarily the first time.

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to launch a new three-digit hotline for people who are feeling suicidal or are going through any other mental health crisis. It recommends making 988 the new national number to call for help, replacing the current 10-digit number.

The agency presented the idea to Congress in a report earlier this month and is expected to release more information and seek public comment about the proposal in the coming months.

This week, the Trump administration announced a new regulation that would allow it to detain migrant families who have crossed the U.S. border illegally for an indefinite period of time.

Priscilla Bogema lives in a rural town called McGregor, Minn., in a part of the state that has more trees and lakes than people.

She came here about 20 years ago seeking solitude during a major crisis in her life. She had just gotten divorced and was dealing with some health problems. "So I came to a place where nobody could see me," she says.

There were three high-profile shootings across the country in one week: The shooting in Gilroy, Calif., on July 28, and then the back-to-back shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this past weekend.

That's no surprise, say scientists who study mass shootings. Research shows that these incidents usually occur in clusters and tend to be contagious. Intensive media coverage seems to drive the contagion, the researchers say.

What kind of person are you?

That's the question that a personality test called the Big Five seeks to answer. You respond to a series of statements about yourself – everything from "I have a kind word for everyone" to "I get chores done right away" – by agreeing, disagreeing or being neutral. Your final score gauges you on a quintet of characteristics: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion and neuroticism (or emotional stability, depending on which version of the test you take).

Why these five traits?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated 7:55 p.m. ET

The World Health Organization is bringing attention to the problem of work-related stress. The group announced this week that it is updating its definition of burnout in the new version of its handbook of diseases, the International Classification of Diseases — ICD-11 — which will go into effect in January 2022

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