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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism 2006-2007

Alix Spiegel
Freelance Reporter
National Public Radio
Washington, D.C., USA

TOPIC: Document the psychosocial impact of Hurricane Katrina on the residents of the Gulf Coast through several follow-up radio stories.

Stuck and Suicidal in a Post-Katrina Trailer Park
The first morning of my visit to Scenic Trails, I was walking the path between some trailers when I bumped into a man named Tim Szepek. He was young, tall, and solidly good-looking. I asked if I could speak to him for a moment and he agreed. We found a spot of shade beneath a tree, and I started with what I considered a casual warm-up.

Post Katrina Mental Health: What Can Be Done?
What is the source of the dysfunction in the FEMA trailer parks, and what can possibly be done to help? In the second part of the Scenic Trails story, Alix Spiegel talks to government officials, mental health counselors, church volunteers and others.

Two Years After Katrina, the Mattios Return Home
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, some former residents of New Orleans are still struggling to put their lives back together. One family, the Mattios, spent eight trying months after the storm in a single motel room in Baton Rouge, among prostitutes and drug dealers. They finally moved into a small, dark, but affordable, apartment nearby.

New Orleans Suffers Crisis in Mental Health Care
Since Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, mental health resources have been in short supply. Before the storm, there were 240 hospital psychiatric beds in Orleans Parish, but now there are only 30, and with so few hospital beds for the mentally ill, people in the city have been forced to take extreme measures.

Seizure Drug Shows Promise against Alcoholism
Alcohol-dependent patients who received topiramate, a seizure medication, had fewer heavy-drinking days, fewer drinks per day and more days of continuous abstinence than those who received placebo, according to a study in the Oct. 10 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.

Despite Worries, Psychiatric Hospital Bans Smoking
Smoking bans have taken hold in workplaces, restaurants, and hospitals around the nation. But as recently as last year, a survey showed that 59 percent of psychiatric hospitals in the United States still allowed patients to smoke.

Study: Adoption Not Harmful to Child's Self-Esteem
New research challenges the common perception that adoption negatively impacts a child's self-esteem. A study by a Dutch researcher shows that adopted children tend to overcome developmental and emotional problems and achieve a normal level of self-esteem.

Many Psychiatrists Self-Prescribe, Study Says
A new study from a professor at the University of Michigan looks at how frequently psychiatrists prescribe medication for themselves. The study finds that many are writing their own prescriptions to avoid the stigma associated with being a doctor with a mental health problem.

Study Ties Concussions to PTSD
A new study of traumatic brain injury finds a strong association between concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings were based on reviews of more than 2,000 soldiers.

Soldiers' Head Injuries May Contribute to PTSD
Traumatic brain injury has been labeled the signature injury of the Iraq war. It's estimated that between 10 percent and 20 percent of soldiers who have served in Iraq have suffered from this kind of wound.

Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills
On October 3, 1955, the Mickey Mouse Club debuted on television. As we all now know, the show quickly became a cultural icon, one of those phenomena that helped define an era. What is less remembered but equally, if not more, important, is that another transformative cultural event happened that day: The Mattel toy company began advertising a gun called the "Thunder Burp."

To Prevent False IDs, Police Lineups Get Revamped
In a small room at police headquarters in Dallas, a police officer and the eyewitness to a minor case recently sat down to consider six photographs in a photo lineup. Eyewitness identifications like this happen every day in America, and on the surface, it is a straightforward transaction.

Why Seeing (The Unexpected) Is Often Not Believing
Two months ago, on a wooded path in upstate New York, a psychologist named Chris Chabris strapped a video camera to a 20-year-old man and told him to chase after a jogger making his way down the path.

Creator Of Psychopathy Test Worries About Its Use
There's a man in prison in California named Robert Dixon. He's been denied parole in large part because he took a test. It found he might be a psychopath. Dixon points out, that's a hard label to get rid of.

Can A Test Really Tell Who's A Psychopath?
In November 2009, Robert Dixon took a test to determine whether he was a psychopath.

Closing The Achievement Gap With Baby Talk
In the mid-1960s, Betty Hart was a graduate student in child development working at a preschool in Kansas City, Kan. The preschool was for poor kids - really poor kids. Many came from troubled housing projects nearby.

What's A Mental Disorder? Even Experts Can't Agree
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM, updated roughly every 15 years, has detailed descriptions of all the mental disorders officially recognized by psychiatry. It's used by psychiatrists, insurance companies, drug researchers, the courts and even schools.

Study: Female Vets Especially Vulnerable To Suicide
Around 32,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year; 20 percent of those suicides are veterans. Traditionally, when we think of suicide among vets, we think of men. But this week, for the first time, a sizable study was published that looked specifically at female veterans and suicide.

Helmet Face Shields Could Prevent Military Brain Injuries
Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, has been called the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 130,000 men and women have come home from their deployments with TBI, and getting treatment for brain injuries, as NPR's Daniel Zwerdling has reported, is difficult.

Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities
The fight happened a long time ago when they were still in school. But for both Tom and Eric Hoebbel, the fight was a defining event - the kind of family story that gets trotted out for new acquaintances because it seems to convey something important.

Can Electric Shocks To The Brain Improve Math Skills?
I was never good at math. Growing up, calculus might as well have been nuclear physics as far as I was concerned. It was all just one long nightmare. Which is why an article titled "Electrical Brain Stimulation Improves Math Skills," published in this week's Current Biology, caught my eye.

Forensic Psychiatrists Don't Favor Some Proposed Sexual Diagnoses
When it comes time to throw the book at someone for a sexual offense, there's the law and then there's the bible of psychiatric disorders called the DSM for short

Traces Of Katrina: New Orleans Suicide Rate Still Up
On a recent Tuesday night, emergency medical services worker Josh Bell glanced at the sky through the windshield of his van, then warned his colleague Nina Breakstone that rain was on the way. He pointed at the clouds hanging above the New Orleans skyline. They looked dark.

Is Emotional Pain Necessary?
In the winter of 1992, Theresa Smith took her 14-month-old daughter, Scarlett, to Arizona for an extended visit with family. One night, as they headed to bed, Theresa's mother made a declaration: She would watch the baby the next morning. Theresa should take the day for herself.

A Genetic Drive To Love, Yet Distanced By Differences
People with Williams syndrome - a rare genetic disorder with a variety of symptoms - are known for being almost compulsively loving and trusting. The syndrome is often called the "anti-autism" because people with Williams, rather than isolating themselves from others, are hyper-social.

A Life Without Fear
The drama class had just gotten out, and everybody was standing around talking when Jessica noticed her 9-year-old, Isabelle, making her way over to an elderly woman Jessica had never seen. The woman was neatly dressed, most likely just a well-meaning suburban grandmother who had come to retrieve a grandchild on behalf of an over-extended parent, most likely a perfectly harmless person.

When The 'Trust Hormone' Is Out Of Balance
This is a story about a fickle little hormone that plays a large role in our lives. The name of the hormone is oxytocin, and until recently it was mostly dismissed by scientists. They knew it played a role in inducing labor and facilitating breastfeeding, but otherwise didn't give it much attention.

Without Fear, Racial Stereotypes Fail To Take Root
Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a world that was completely color blind. But research has shown that racial stereotypes are found in every culture and every people - even children as young as 3 years old tend to prefer their own racial group.

The Rules About How Parents Should Make Rules
The rules in 8-year-old Cameron Slaughter's house are clear: Children must do their homework when they get home from school; bedtime is 7:30; and stabbing one's brother with a pencil is not permitted.

The Growing Power Of The Sugar Pill
The other day I came across a fake news story on the Internet. It was a send-up of the pharmaceutical industry which featured a bunch of drug industry executives wringing their hands in despair: placebo pills, the fake news story reported, were getting stronger, what was a drug executive to do?

Children Labeled 'Bipolar' May Get A New Diagnosis
Since the mid-1990s, the number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased a staggering 4,000 percent. And that number has caused a lot of controversy in the world of child psychiatry.

Have Your Say On New Psychiatric Manual
The DSM, as it's called for short, is incredibly influential. Doctors use it to diagnose patients, of course, but insurance companies also consult it in their decisions about reimbursements. Courts, schools, governments, and researchers also turn to the manual for guidance on behavior that deviates from normal.

Mental Health Disaster Relief Not Always Clear Cut
They came after the Oklahoma City bombing and Sri Lanka flooding in the wake of the South Asian tsunami. They came in droves to New York after 9/11. And according to Richard Mollica, a professor at Harvard who's spent his life researching mental health responses to natural and man-made disasters, mental health professionals will soon come to Haiti as well.

Drug Studies Lean On Flawed Measure Of Depression
After all these years and all those prescriptions- you'd think we'd know everything there is to know about how antidepressants affect the people who take them.

Meds May Help Only Those With Severe Depression
Millions of Americans swallow antidepressants each day. Many are people who struggle with terrible, debilitating depression, but some are people who have only mild or moderate symptoms. They are often prescribed antidepressants anyway with the expectation that the drugs will help them feel better.

Battling Despair: One Mother's Search For A Job
For the past eight months, Sylvia Martinez has worn the wardrobe of the unemployed. Every morning, she has paired bulky sweatpants with shapeless T-shirts and declared herself dressed.

Using Psychology To Save You From Yourself
The city of Greensboro, N.C., has experimented with a program designed for teenage mothers. To prevent these teens from having another child, the city offered each of them $1 a day for every day they were not pregnant. It turns out that the psychological power of that small daily payment is huge.

Military Psychologist Says Harsh Tactics Justified
In early 1990, around 15 military psychologists met in a small conference room at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Though the psychologists worked in different communities across the country, their job was basically the same. They helped torture people.

Psychologists Dispute Claim in Interrogation Memos
In one of the interrogation memos released last week by the Obama administration, former Justice Department assistant attorney general Jay Bybee makes a startlingly broad and bold assertion.

Living On The Edge: 15 Days From Homeless
Last Friday morning at 11:15, Sylvia Martinez found herself bowed over the wheel of her 2003 Saturn Vue, fervently praying to God in the middle of a suburban Virginia parking lot.

Pill For Alcoholism May Also Dampen Urge To Steal
Darlene* has stolen many things in her life. She has taken shoes and bras and televisions and rabbits. But as a former librarian, there is one particular item that Darlene always found particularly enticing.

Economic Crisis, Unemployment Take Emotional Toll
On Nov. 4 at 4:01 p.m., Sylvia Martinez looked up from her desk and noticed that her boss was crossing the room, walking - she realized - in the direction of her workstation.

Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control
It's playtime at the Geraldyn O. Foster Early Childhood Center in Bridgeton, N.J., and in one corner of a busy classroom, 4-year-olds Zee Logan and Emmy Hernandez want to play bookstore.

One Man Tackles Psychotherapy For The Amish
There aren't many psychotherapists in modern America with a hitching post in their parking lot - but Jim Cates is one.

Seizure Drug Shows Promise Against Alcoholism
Alcohol-dependent patients who received topiramate, a seizure medication, had fewer heavy-drinking days, fewer drinks per day and more days of continuous abstinence than those who received placebo, according to a study in the Oct. 10 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.

Psychology of Fraud: Why Good People Do Bad Things
The past decade has brought us a long parade of headlines involving unethical behavior. And that's led researchers to a disturbing conclusion: The vast majority of us are not only capable of behaving in profoundly unethical ways, but without realizing it, we do it all the time.

More Children Struggle with Gender Identity Disorder
The March issue of the medical journal, Pediatrics, features a striking editorial. It begins with the following sentence: A new pediatric problem is in town. The new problem, according to the editorial, is gender identity disorder in children.

A Fresh Look at Antidepressants Finds Low risk of Youth Suicide
In 2004, after an extensive review, the Food and Drug Administration issued a strong warning to doctors who prescribed antidepressants to teens and children.

When it Comes to Depression, Serotonin Isn't the Whole Story
When I was 17 years old, I got so depressed that what felt like an enormous black hole appeared in my chest. Everywhere I went, the black hole went, too. So to address the black-hole issue, my parents took me to a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

For Creative People, Cheating Comes More Easily
Five months after the implosion of Enron, Feb. 12, 2002, the company's chief executive, Ken Lay, finally stood in front of Congress and the world and placed his hand on a Bible.

Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation
Conversation therapy--a controversial psychotherapy that tries to help gay men and women become straight-is in the news again.

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