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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.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

With Election Day just around the corner, many Americans are on edge. Nearly 70% of respondents said the elections are a significant source of stress, according to a survey out this month from the American Psychological Association.

President Trump has signed into law a bipartisan bill to create a three-digit number for mental health emergencies. The Federal Communications Commission had already picked 988 as the number for this hotline and aims to have it up and running by July 2022. The new law paves the way to make that a reality.

"We are thrilled, because this is a game changer," says Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Editor's note: Since we published this story, Trump's physician said that the president has completed his treatment for COVID-19.

President Trump told Fox Business Network on Thursday that he will be taking a steroid for COVID-19 for a "little bit longer." As his physicians told reporters last weekend, Trump started taking the drug on Saturday while he was still at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Back in early spring, Khristan Yates worked as a quality assurance analyst at a marketing company and loved her job. "I had one of the best jobs of my career," recalls Yates, 31, a resident of Chicago.

Yates, who's a mother of two children, had moved into a bigger apartment just before the pandemic hit because she wanted to give her kids more space. At the time, she felt like she was "at the top of her world."

But as the economic effects of the pandemic hit the marketing industry among others, she lost her job in May.

Joeller Stanton used to be an assistant teacher at a private school in Baltimore and made about $30,000 a year. In mid-March, when the pandemic was just starting, her school closed for what was supposed to be two weeks. "Up to that point, we were under the impression that it wasn't that serious, that everything was going to be OK," Stanton recalls.

Nearly a quarter of people in the United States are experiencing symptoms of depression, according to a study published Wednesday. That's nearly three times the number before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

And those with a lower income, smaller savings and people severely affected by the pandemic — either through a job loss, for example, or by the death of a loved one — are more likely to be bearing the burden of these symptoms.

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.

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