A Lethal Inheritance, A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness
Now available in print or e-book editions from Amazon.com, BN.Com and booksellers everywhere.
To watch the book trailer, click play center screen, below.
I'm pleased to share a new review of A Lethal Inheritance which appeared May 30, 2012 on Cerebrum, the Dana Foundation website for neuroscience news and commentary. Not only does reviewer Dean MacKinnon do a comprehensive critique of my book, he draws on his experience in psychiatric epidemiology and genetics to create a psychiatric family tree to illustrate the links between mental disorders and addictions that I chart through three generations in my family. I learned a lot from reading the lucid context he creates for this review.
Here's an excerpt, and I encourage you to click on the link above to read the whole review and commentary.
"In journalistic reviews of the scientific literature I always look out for the odd bit of pseudoscience or pop psychology that might undermine one’s confidence in the author’s understanding of the topic. Happily, I find that Ms. Costello’s science and medical reporting, on topics both biological and clinical, is quite sound. Indeed, she not only avoids bad science, but she also avoids gushing overenthusiastically about the trendiest, most evanescent discoveries. I was consistently impressed with her scholarship and her way of making sense of science without resorting to jargon. She even goes the extra mile—late in the book she enrolls in a study on psychobiological markers of schizophrenia and describes the research process from the inside out."
A GOODREADS Book Review by Jen Machajewski….Absolutely marvelous. A must read for parents regardless of whether you believe there is or is not mental illness in your ancestry. Learning about the intersection of genetics and environment is crucial for living in todays world. Whether your cause, your issue is mental health, learning disabilities, environmental safety, addiction, prenatal care, cancer prevention/treatment or a host of other things, this concept of G x E is crucial.
The memoir parts offer compelling evidence of the authors sincere motives in writing such a book. I really appreciated her honesty about both her personal life and the positive and negative issues of current mental health treatments. She plays no favorites, blames no singular entity, and makes no excuses.
The genealogy bit was probably my least favorite but that only means I liked it rather than I loved it. Those who enjoy genealogy and have a family history trail will like this section – a mini investigative drama snuck into a scientific memoir.
Jen Machajewski rated it 5 of 5 stars on Apr 06, 2012
A Review from the Lit Chit Chat Blog....In this fascinating page-turner, Victoria Costello is forced to act as both memoirist and detective after her oldest son spirals into paranoid schizophrenia and ruins the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy her family has employed for decades.
In Costello’s family, mental illness was always there – but hidden always under a different name. Suicides were labeled as accidents. Alcoholism and drug addiction simply weren’t discussed. Everything in between was swept under the rug with only the most cursory explanation given. Even her own depression was labeled “the blues” and promptly ignored by her. However, once her eldest son has a complete breakdown – resulting in psychiatric institutionalization – Costello is required to search under these rugs for the biological factors that make up her (and her son’s) psychiatric history. This need is only further amplified when her youngest (and previously perfect) son suffers a meltdown and is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In the end, all have lovely recoveries. But the secrets she unearths are unsettling to say the least.
Backed with solid research and groundbreaking studies; Costello’s story is moving and informative. She makes a solid and compelling case for knowing your family’s medical history – both physical and psychiatric. After learning what I’ve learned here, I know I’ll dig a little deeper into my own history. A must read for anyone struggling with mental illness or struggling to come to terms with a family member’s mental illness.
Posted by Elizabeth raymond at 10:02 PM
At the point where it was almost too late to intervene in her eldest son’s
mental deterioration, Costello embarked on a journey backward in time that moved her and both of her sons forward into a brighter future.
While admitting Costello’s son to a psychiatric ward, the admissions counselor inspired her to examine the skeletons in her family’s closet. Therein Costello discovered generations of psychiatric issues that, upon investigation, increased her and her sons’ risk for mental illness. Had these problems not been kept secret—as too many families do—she could have avoided present-day heartbreaking circumstances.
The story Costello shares is a twofer. It is a cautionary tale about the price families pay for keeping mental illness secret. It is also a road map for identifying risk factors for and recognizing early signs of psychiatric issues, the better to preempt advanced disease. —Donna Chavez
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