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.

With COVID-19 cases still soaring across the U.S., it can be tempting to just ride the winter out on the couch, binging on Netflix. But psychologists say it's important in 2021 for us all to keep up human contact.

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.

Like hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been hospitalized with the coronavirus, President Trump is recovering at home after being discharged. Unlike most Americans, his home is equipped with a medical unit, where he will receive around-the-clock medical care from a team of physicians and nurses.

President Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and returned to the White House on Monday evening. He gave reporters a double thumbs-up on his way through the doors, and the White House physician earlier on Monday said, "He's up and back to his old self."

But he's a few days into his diagnosis with COVID-19, a novel disease that doctors are still learning how best to treat. And, medical experts say, he may still be in a danger zone.

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.

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.

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.

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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.)

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?

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.

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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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Weed use is taking off as more states move to legalize it. And with all the buzz over medical marijuana, it's starting to gain an aura of healthfulness. But there are some serious health risks associated with frequent use. One of the more troubling ones is the risk of having a psychotic episode.

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.

An estimated 12.8 percent of adolescents in the U.S. experience at least one episode of major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to previous studies, many of those teens' mental health is linked to depression in their parents.

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.

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the oldest fossil of a modern human outside Africa. The fossil suggests that humans first migrated out of the continent much earlier than previously believed.