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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.

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?

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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

The number of people dying by suicide in the U.S. has been rising, and a new study shows that the suicide rate among girls ages 10 to 14 has been increasing faster than it has for boys of the same age.

Boys are still more likely to take their own lives. But the study published Friday in JAMA Network Open finds that girls are steadily narrowing that gap.

As more states legalize marijuana, more people in the U.S. are buying and using weed — and the kind of weed they can buy has become much stronger.

That concerns scientists who study marijuana and its effects on the body, as well as emergency room doctors who say they're starting to see more patients who come into the ER with weed-associated issues.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


If you know someone struggling with despair, depression or thoughts of suicide, you may be wondering how to help.

Domestic violence is common among adults, and women are most frequently the victims. In fact, nearly half of women killed by homicide in the United States are killed by their former or current intimate partners.

Now a new study finds that this kind of violence also poses a risk to the lives of adolescent girls.

The study found that of the more than 2,000 adolescents killed between 2003 and 2016, nearly 7 percent — 150 teens — were killed by their current or former intimate partners.

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The father of a Sandy Hook shooting victim was found dead this morning in Newtown, Conn., in an apparent suicide.

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One in nine women in the United States suffer from depression after childbirth. For some women, postpartum depression is so bad that they struggle to care for their children and may even consider or attempt suicide.

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Psychologist John Van Dreal has spent almost 30 years working with troubled kids. Still, it's always unsettling to get the kind of phone call he received one morning eight years ago as he was on his way to a meeting.

"I got a call from the assistant principal at North [Salem] High, reporting that a student had made some threats on the Internet," remembers Van Dreal, the director of safety and risk management for Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem, Ore.

Threats of violence in a Facebook post

It's hard to empathize with someone who carries out a school shooting. The brutality of their crimes is unspeakable. Whether the shootings were at Columbine, at Sandy Hook, or in Parkland, they have traumatized students and communities across the U.S.

The partial government shutdown that started Saturday will affect quite a few activities of the Food and Drug Administration.

Although most of the agency's employees weren't working over the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday because of federal holidays, FDA will furlough some 40 percent of its staff starting Wednesday.

Researchers have traced a connection between some infections and mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. New research from Denmark bolsters that connection. The study, published Thursday in JAMA Psychiatry, shows that a wide variety of infections, even common ones like bronchitis, are linked to a higher risk of many mental illnesses in children and adolescents.

Kristen Philman had already been using heroin and prescription painkillers for several years when, one day in 2014, a relative offered her some methamphetamine, a chemical cousin to the stimulant amphetamine.

"I didn't have any heroin at the time," says Philman, a resident of Littleton, Colo. "I thought, 'Oh this might make me feel better.' "

It did, she says. Soon, she was using both heroin and methamphetamine on a regular basis.

For nearly a month, the two sisters — then ages 17 and 12 — traveled by road from their home in El Salvador to the southern border of the United States. They had no parent or relatives with them on that difficult journey in the fall of 2016 — just a group of strangers and their smugglers.

Ericka and her younger sister Angeles started out in multiple cars, Ericka remembers. "In Mexico, it was buses. And we changed buses very often." (NPR is using only the sisters' middle names to protect their identity as they await a decision on their application for asylum in the U.S.)

Roger Chui first learned about the mass shooting that killed 12 people in a packed bar Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when he woke up the morning after and turned on his phone.

"And I was like 'Oh, that seems really soon after Pittsburgh and Louisville,' " says the software developer in Lexington, Ky. "I thought we'd get more of a break."

Chui feels like these kinds of shootings happen in the U.S. so often now that when he hears about them all he can think about is, "Oh well, it happened again I guess."

He's not alone.

The rate of premature birth across the United States rose for the third year in a row, according to the annual premature birth report card from March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to improve maternal and infant health. This comes after nearly a decade of decline from 2007 to 2015.

In 2017, the premature birth rate was 9.93 percent of births, up slightly from 2016, when it was 9.85 percent. The report card draws from the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Paige Thesing has struggled with insomnia since high school. "It takes me a really long time to fall asleep — about four hours," she says. For years, her mornings were groggy and involved a "lot of coffee."

After a year of trying sleep medication prescribed by her doctor, she turned to the internet for alternate solutions. About four months ago, she settled on a mobile phone meditation app called INSCAPE.

In Thursday's testimony at Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, Christine Blasey Ford alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in 1982, when she was 15 years old and he was 17.

Kavanaugh staunchly denied these allegations.

But memory is fallible. A question on many people's minds is, how well can anyone recall something that happened over 35 years ago?

Pretty well, say scientists, if the memory is of a traumatic event. That's because of the key role emotions play in making and storing memories.

Most teens today own a smartphone and go online every day, and about a quarter of them use the internet "almost constantly," according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center.

Now a study published Tuesday in JAMA suggests that such frequent use of digital media by adolescents might increase their odds of developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Many people who attempt suicide end up in an emergency room for immediate treatment. But few of those suicide survivors get the follow-up care they need at a time when they are especially likely to attempt suicide again.

Now, a study shows that a simple intervention conducted by staff in emergency departments can reduce the risk of future attempts. The intervention involves creating a safety plan for each patient and following up with phone calls after discharge.

People addicted to prescription opioids or heroin are far more likely to have run-ins with the law than those who don't use opioids, according to a study published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

The study provides the first nationwide estimate for the number of people using opioids who end up in the American criminal justice system. The results suggest a need to engage law enforcement officials and corrections systems to tackle the opioid epidemic.

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For most of her childhood, growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, Kelly Zimmerman felt alone and anxious.

She despaired when her mother was depressed or working late shifts; when her parents fought nonstop; when her friends wanted to come over, and she felt too ashamed to let them see her home's buckling floor, the lack of running water.

Kelly tried to shut out those feelings, and when she was 18, a boyfriend offered her an opioid painkiller — Percocet.

Her anxiety dissolved, at least for a little while.

The number of people dying by suicide in the United States has risen by about 30 percent in the past two decades. And while the majority of suicide-related deaths today are among boys and men, a study published Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics finds that the number of girls and women taking their own lives is rising.

Loneliness isn't just a fleeting feeling, leaving us sad for a few hours to a few days. Research in recent years suggests that for many people, loneliness is more like a chronic ache, affecting their daily lives and sense of well-being.

Now a nationwide survey by the health insurer Cigna underscores that. It finds that loneliness is widespread in America, with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has proposed a new rule that restricts scientific research that can be used by the agency for its regulatory decisions.

The proposed rule only allows the use of studies that make all data publicly available for anyone to analyze. Pruitt proposed the new rule as a way to make the agency's decision-making more "transparent, objective and measurable."

Our ancestors in Kenya's Southern Rift Valley made some pretty innovative tools. And they made them far earlier than previously thought.

The oldest innovations were axes designed to be held in the palm of the hand. They were shaped like a tear drop, with a rounded end and a pointed eye. The edges were wavy and sharp. And they look as if they were great at chopping down branches — or chopping up the carcass of a large animal.

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