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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism 2006-2007

Tamar Kahn
Science & Health Editor/Correspondent
Business Day
Cape Town, South Africa

Click here to read the Carter Center profile on Tamar Kahn

TOPIC: Explore the impact of trauma, shift work, and organizational changes on the mental health of South African police officers, and how their mental health problems affect their families, co-workers, and the citizens they are charged to protect.

A Beaten Officer, Stuck in His Beat
The policeman's wife stares through the car window across the steamy township to the derelict house where her husband shot his first suspect almost a decade ago. The teenager was the first of a half-dozen people to die at the policeman's hand, killings that permeate his every waking moment, seep into his dreams and poison his mind.

Burden of Stress Burns Hole of Desperation in Hearts of SA's Police
A few weeks ago Johannesburg metro police officer Themba Mabanga climbed into his patrol car, and shot himself with his service pistol. He left no suicide note explaining his last desperate act, leaving his colleagues and family to try to puzzle out the reasons for the tragedy.

Repairing the Trauma of Violent Crime
Late one Sunday night, Constable Tony Penso stumbled while entering the front door of his Johannesburg home, dropped his gun on the floor and shot himself in the stomach. Eventually his neighbours came to investigate the bang and drove him to a nearby hospital.

Legacy of Apartheid or Clever Ruse to Milk the State?
Almost a decade ago, police captain Jeff Benzien shocked the world with his chilling demonstration before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of how he had tortured detainees during apartheid by suffocating them with a wet bag.

Keeping SA Safe--The Real Nightriders
The temperature is rapidly sliding towards zero, as Insp Theuns Grobler and Const Gert van Tonder head out on their all-night patrol of Witbank. Bitter though the night is, the heater in their BMW is switched off. Heat makes them sleepy. The time is 6.05pm. Both men have been married a year, and both know their wives will sleep little tonight.

Crime Takes its Toll on Community Crime Fighters
MPHO Fortune's voice is steady as he quietly relates a recent experience as a community policing forum volunteer on the streets of Dobsonville - helping cut down the body of a police reservist who hanged himself.

Families of Cops are in the Firing Line
An old pine chair saved Clara Meyer. It caught the bullet her constable son-in-law Carl Sharnick had intended for the back of her head, sending the bullet ricocheting into the checked linoleum kitchen floor just inches from where she lay wounded after his first attempt to kill her.

'Three Horrible Weeks' that Changed a Leader's Life
Sometimes grown men do cry. And when they do so in public, you can be sure everyone sits up and pays attention. Just ask former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who has been touring SA to raise awareness about mental illness.

Less sex, more drink, violence among pupils
The latest survey of the behaviour of school children has sent out a mixed message on the effectiveness of the government's programmes intended to promote safe sex and prevent the spread of HIV, raising tough questions for policy makers.

Minister's plea for mentally ill
Greater public awareness of mental illness is needed to fight stigma and discrimination, says Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. In a speech to mark mental health awareness month, she said education about mental health should be incorporated into all of the government's health campaigns.

Mental Health Treatment in Spotlight
Fewer than one in five South Africans who experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime get treatment, says a major new study funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). The South African Stress and Health Survey, released yesterday to coincide with World Mental Health Day, is the first of its kind, and will be an important source of information for policy makers.

On the right track to better health
After years of excruciating pain, Leah Hendricks has finally got rid of her troublesome tooth and is looking forward to cooking up a meat curry. Beaming from ear to ear, she has just emerged from Transnet's Phelophepa train, a mobile clinic that travels to some of SA's poorest communities.

Police Suicides
An old pine chair saved Clara Meyer. It caught the bullet. Her constable son-in-law Carl Sharnick had intended for the back of her head, sending the bullet ricocheting into the checked linoleum kitchen floor just inches from where she lay wounded after his first attempt to kill her.

Healthcare
You can't help but look at the job Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi faces and be grateful for the one you have. He faces the daunting task of fixing a rotten public healthcare system that lurches from one crisis to the next - the baby deaths at Charlotte Maxeke academic hospital being the latest horror story to hit the headlines - and he has to figure out how to pull private healthcare out of its deadly cost spiral.

Genetic markers for obesity identified
Scientists from the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) had discovered two genetic variations in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin that appear to affect the risk of being obese, a human genetics conference heard yesterday. The research is still in its infancy, but it could one day help to tailor dietary advice to an individual's genetic make-up.

Risk of suicide rises when workers lose jobs

The science of lust
Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it, but do they know why? Claire Keeton takes a look at the chemicals that encourage us to fall in love (or lust)

Puppy love to the rescue
Ben and Bobby cuddle and lick their patients - with telling results. Their affection, for example, motivated crime victim Jurin "JJ" Robins to move his hand for the first time after he had been shot.

Relax MAX
In a world full of conflict and trauma, one man had made it his mission to bring relief to the people. Claire Keeton reports. Tremors and shaking in humans are usually seen as a weakness, signaling fear, illness or drug withdrawal.

Man in the mirror
For men obsessed with body image, bigger can never be big enough - often to the serious detriment of their health, writes Claire Keeton. 'He'll eat nutritious high protein and swallow raw eggs/Try to build up his shoulders, chest, arms and legs/Such an effort if only he knew of my plan/When in just seven days I can make you a man," Dr Frank N Furter sings in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, about his plan to create a muscular man with the "Charles Atlas seal of approval".

Your son's nanny may lead to the Other Woman in his life
More than half of South Africa's workforce was female in 2008 - which doesn't bode well for the next generation of boy children, or their future partners, if Dr Dennis Friedman is right. The Times of London reports that the psychiatrist, in his new book, An Unsolicited Gift, says employing a nanny or au pair to look after your baby son (while you are out forming part of that female workforce) could turn him into a womaniser.

Teen self-mutilation on the rise in SA
Psychologists and psychiatrists in South Africa have reported an alarming increase in the number of cases of teenagers mutilating themselves. A counsellor for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, Janine Shamos, said child abuse and neglect in situations where Aids decimates families, anxiety about exams and jobs, and peer pressure are among the triggers that provoke teenagers to try to escape their emotional pain by drawing blood.

Thin is in as black women shed kilos
Defying Zulu tradition that favours a fuller figure, 38-year-old Sibongile Hlongwane has shed 29kg of her nearly 90kg figure. She is one of thousands of black South Africans wanting to get thinner, a trend that is marked among young women and the expanding middle class and elite in cities.

Depression helpline under threat
Thousands of traumatised or suicidal South Africans every week turn to the 12 free helplines run by the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) - but its services are under threat.

Pair share top Aids award
Aids activists Floba Thobela and Anne Leon are the joint winners of the first Leadership in Aids Award. Thobela and Leon, who have both been living with HIV for more than a decade, were honoured at the recent SA Aids Conference in Durban for their contribution to fighting the stigma and the difference they have made to their communities.

Interview - Portia de Rossi. DOWN TO THE BONE
In her new book, Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi talks about her battle with anorexia. Claire Keeton investigates the disorder. 'You're a stupid, fat, disgusting dyke. You ugly, stupid bitch!" the glamorous Hollywood actress Portia de Rossi tells herself one morning, waking up in a panic at "overeating" the previous night.

BLUE SEASON
If the silly season makes you want to reach for the brown bag, it's time for a change, writes Claire Keeton. Once upon a time families sang carols and shared presents around a twinkling Christmas tree, before sitting down to a feast.

COUNTING SHEEP
Stress, pain, living conditions and psychological problems can all stop you getting to sleep. Claire Keeton reports

Pollyanna days
Being happy is not just about how we're wired - we also have a choice. Claire Keeton reports. Love not loot unexpectedly brings happiness to the villain of the animated movie Despicable Me, while exploring the world and its meaning proves more rewarding to the wanderer in Eat, Pray, Love than her conventional marriage and career did.

You might as well have fun when your job drives you up the wall...
It will keep you healthy and make you much more productive, writes Claire Keeton. Imagine massages, Pilates classes, gym training and nurse visits at your office. Or taking a break whenever you want on a rock-climbing wall in the foyer and beating your boss at fussball.

Health. HIGH ANXIETY KIDS
Eight-year-olds with anxiety disorders? Eleven-year-olds suffering panic attacks? Children are burdened with more stresses than ever before, writes Claire Keeton.

HEALTH. FEVER PITCH
So is sport good for you? Or is it bad for you? It may depend on how much beer you drink, or whether you have a shoulder to cry on. Claire Keeton reports. Today is the final day of the World Cup and many South Africans are facing soccer-fever withdrawal: winter nights devoid of games to watch with friends and family.

What's on your mind?
What happens to your brain when you blush? Why are some people addicted to gambling? How do sportsmen make split-second decisions during a competition?

Flexibility is the key to a loyal workforce
Wasting time in a gridlock during rush hour in Johannesburg isn't good for your blood pressure. But choosing what hours you work is, and also seems to benefit mental health and sleep patterns.

Women with knives
Wives, mothers, dedicated surgeons. Claire Keeton talks to four women who have chosen surgical gowns over ball gowns.

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