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A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616144661
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616144661
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From Publisher's Weekly - A science journalist and mental health advocate in San Francisco, Costello offers both an affecting chronicle of her family's mental illness and a useful guide to detection and prevention. In the end, Costello presents a book of vigorous personal and factual research. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011


From NAMI E-News - Although schizophrenia is often described in scientific, medical or psychological terms, it is, like all illnesses, an intensely personal experience. By focusing on individuals with mental illness and their families Costello gives a good overview of where we are now in uncovering its causes and treatments. 11/2011

"This honest, lucid book examines the urgent problems of family history and early diagnosis in mental illness from a personal and scientific standpoint. It will be invaluable to families trying to understand their own history, and to those who have been blind to such history."
--ANDREW SOLOMON
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

"This book should be required reading for any parent with a family history of mental illness, for pediatricians, and for educators. Costello elegantly weaves personal history and scientific research into a compelling and profoundly important narrative..."
--AYELET WALDMAN,
author of Bad Mother


"...A Lethal Inheritance is a graceful balance between science and memoir."
--LINDA GRAY SEXTON, author of Half in Love, Surviving the Legacy of Suicide,
and Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Ann Sexton "

From the Author

How and Why I Came to Write A Lethal Inheritance...

I began this book project with the premise that the world didn't need another memoir of mental illness -- unless I could find a novel and useful reason for sharing the intimate details of what had been the worst decade of my life.

After dealing in 1998 with the diagnosis of my eldest son Alex at age seventeen with paranoid schizophrenia, I then confronted my own lifelong depression followed rapidly by my youngest son's depression and anxiety disorder -- while navigating the emotional and practical fallout. Nothing prepares you for such an unraveling -- particularly when you come from a family steeped in denial, addiction, and hidden mental illness, as mine was. Eventually I would see that these historical family dysfunctions and secrets were as central to the story I had to tell as were the present-day diagnoses, and treatment decisions I was encountering. 

This is how I came to the decision to use my own family going back three generations as a case study on how mental illness and addiction traverse families.

 From the book:

I've learned three important lessons on my journey through mental illness. First, that I've done things in the wrong order. If we, as parents, get treatment for our own psychological or addiction issues, our children will suffer far less mental illness. If they're already struggling with a mental health challenge, we'll be of much greater help to them. That leads to my second discovery: intervening sooner for a mental health problem is better than picking up the pieces later -- for everyone. Lastly, I've learned that although we're each born with inherited liabilities and assets, throughout our lives our minds become largely what we make of them. Put simply, nurture can trump nature.

Once we get these three things, the game has changed, and we're living in the prevention model of mental wellness where healthy minds rule.


To read an excerpt: alethalinheritance.com/about-the-book/excerpt/

More About the Author

Victoria Costello is an Emmy Award winning author of six books published in psychology, mental wellness, parenting and memoir. She blogs on HuffingtonPost, Mamapedia, PsychCentral, All About Psychology, Tween Parent, DivineCaroline, and Yahoo Health & Wellness News.

In her work as a mental health advocate, she has been a board member of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, a producer of strength based recovery training materials for care managers at S.F.'s Family Services Agency and a speaker for parents and care providers around the country.

After co-authoring four books with medical and psychological experts, Victoria released two titles in 2012.

Using memoir and the latest findings from genetics, brain imaging and behavioral science she tells a far reaching, and yet intimate story that will resonate with anyone who has dealt with mental illness in the family in A Lethal Inheritance, A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness, coming from Prometheus Books on January 24, 2012.

Visit the book website at: http://alethalinheritance.com

Alpha Books released Costello's how to on writing a healing memoir, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Memoir.

Currently available books include the psychology primer she coauthored for parents and college students, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child and Adolescent Psychology, written with child psychiatrist Dr. Jack Westman. Her Everything Parent's Guide to Children with OCD written with Stephen Martin, MFT, is a well established parental resource.

In addition to her publishing activities in the mental health field she has hands on experience as the Executive Director of a community mental health center in Santa Rosa, CA.

Speaking and workshops topics include: prevention of mental health disorders for parents and children, using the latest science to interpret your personal risk based on family mental health histories, building emotional resilience and positive communication in families, strength based recovery, and self healing through memoir writing.


Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
This book is well written and researched.
Catherine M. Fox
This book is very readable & is highly recommended for any parent who has a mental illness.
Verrine
The author tells her story with love and compassion.
Caroline McGirr

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tonya on July 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
If your family has a history of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or a host of other mental health disorders, Ms. Costello's book is a must-read, (and it's certainly insightful for any reader with only a passing interest in mental illness). Her personal journey is candid and engaging, and I suspect familiar to most anyone whose family has locked away mental health secrets and tossed the key.

But it is the science and research documented in this book that make it a true treasure. Ms. Costello skillfully manages the challenge of presenting academic information and statistics that are at once enlightening and a pleasure to read.

My small issue with this book is its title. As a layperson with personal interest in mental health issues, I put down this book feeling as though a family history of mental health disorders does not mean an individual is left with a lethal inheritance. Even if your family tree is plagued with suicides, unexplained deaths and drug abuse as a means of self-medication, Ms. Costello and her extensive research offer steps to break the vicious genetics of mental illness. It's a happy irony that a book called A Lethal Inheritance can offer hope for you and your children.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By s.l.nelms on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a mental health provider for children and families I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Ms Costello bravely combines her personal and family mental health history with some of the most recent scientific information about genetics, brain development and impact of the environment to the development and possible life time complications of mental illness. It is easy to read and she offers several check lists and strategies to identify and improve the lives of all who come in contact with these disorders, which is every one of us.

A must read for anyone who has EVER struggled with mental illness or has a family history of addiction, bipolar disorder, depression, conduct problems, ADHD etc.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tanager on September 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Argh! Where was this book thirty years ago when I started my quest for some answers to these unfathomable questions? Trust me, there are more answers to some of life's most perplexing imponderables in this single book than I found in many years of research, reading, counseling sessions, church attendance, and personal conversations. While it's true that real breakthroughs in our scientific understanding of major mental illnesses have only been made fairly recently, one wonders why there aren't more books like this one dealing with seemingly impossible problems. Kudos to the author for her achievement! Can't wait to see what she tackles next!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Verrine on March 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have bipolar disorder & my husband has ADHD. My son is 7 & has ADHD. Before getting pregnant, I was very conflicted as I did not want to pass on the bipolar. I decided that while a child would have my genes, he would also have a much more stable environment than I did, so hopefully, the more serious mental disease would not be triggered.

Along with a detailed & painful family history, the author gives some tips for how to protect a child from the family curse. She presents up-to-date scientific research in an understandable way. This book is very readable & is highly recommended for any parent who has a mental illness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By maureen on March 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A must read book if you struggle or someone in your family have mental health issues.
There is so much information packed into this book,it is a great resource.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eyria on August 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I hesitate to be critical about this book because it was clearly a labor of love for the author. The book outlines her research into the latest medical information on mental illness, as well as her own personal family history, and was inspired by her sons' struggles with schizophrenia and depression.

There is a lot of good information in the book, but I found it an uneasy mix of personal memoir and reporting on mental health issues. As a memoir, it didn't quite work for me. Although the author describes her sons' problems, and her own, there is a detached quality to her writing that kept me from connecting to them as people. Moreover, the author reports her own problems--drinking, depression, marital issues, self-destructive dating patterns--with honesty but little analysis or introspection. The unfortunate effect is to render her a less-than-sympathetic character. She often seems more concerned with the next medical intervention to take rather than with the person involved.

So, as a memoir, I found it lacking. As an investigation of current scientific research into mental illness, I think it is much better. There is a lot of interesting and useful information presented, including a point-by-point program of what to do as a parent if your child is facing mental health problems.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Catherine M. Fox on April 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is well written and researched. This book grabs you from the beginning and keeps you engaged. While the author takes you on her own journey, she prompts you to evaluate your family history well. As many of us have had that family member that others whisper about and whose life and/or death was questionable, the author provides a foundation for the history behind this behavior and what hidden mental illness may have existed that continues to pass along family lines.
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