Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Family Tree Filled with Mental Illness – Johns Hopkins’ Psychiatrist Dean F. MacKinnon Reviews ‘A Lethal Inheritance’

I happily share this book review from the Dana Foundation website, a wonderful resource on brain science that I’ve just discovered. An excerpt follows and then a link to Dean Mackinnon’s comprehensive critique of my book, which, amazingly, includes a drawing he did of my psychiatric family tree. Now that doesn’t happen every day!

The personal tales of Ms. Costello’s family constitute only one of the two major agendas of the book. Her other aim is to use these stories as a framework for her explorations into our state of knowledge about the causes, nature, and treatment of a variety of mental disorders. She seeds the book through and through with inserts and digressions that cogently summarize topics such as the common psychiatric disorders of childhood, the data on the link between antidepressants and adolescent suicides, psychotherapeutic approaches to schizophrenia, detection of and intervention for suicidal risk, and of course, the solid evidence for genetic factors in psychiatric disorder—which at this point is largely epidemiologic, based on old-school family, twin, and adoption studies.

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 Family Tree Filled with Mental Illness – Dana Foundation.

The Thoughtful Parent: The Sleep Training Debate and Poor Journalism = A Bad Combination

A great post by Amy Webb about how the debate over how best to get baby (and parents) to sleep often gets confused with other issues…not helpful.  Here she pinpoints some of these confusions….

From Amy’s The Thoughtful Parent blog:

My point with this post is not to come down on one side or the other regarding sleep training. Overall, I think it is up to each family to decide how to manage sleep issues in their family based on their values and needs. My point is to illustrate how the media often frames controversial issues like this in a way that is misleading and oversimplifies the research they claim to be referencing.

First, let me discuss a few things that we do know in regards to responsive parenting. These are based on hundreds of research articles:

– infants whose parents respond to them in a responsive way, especially in the first 3 months, but I would say first 6 months, generally develop better overall, learn to self-regulate better, and ultimately cry less

**Note: most pediatricians would not recommend sleep training prior to 6 months of age. Newborns do not have the ability to self-soothe well and must be responded to promptly. Older babies, however, do have the ability to put themselves to sleep (assuming no health problems are present).

– infants whose parents chronically neglect them or their cries for attention have poorer outcomes overall

**Note: if infants’ needs are repeatedly ignored, of course, they will not develop ideally. Pediatrician-recommended sleep training methods do not involve chronic neglect of an infant’s needs.

– infants of depressed mothers are at risk for poor attachment which can lead to further problems with self-regulation, behavior, and later attachments

**Note: extreme sleep-deprivation is a risk factor for depression, particularly postpartum depression

via The Thoughtful Parent: The Sleep Training Debate and Poor Journalism = A Bad Combination.


Call for papers: PLoS Medicine series on Global Mental Health Practice | Speaking of Medicine

PLoS, the Public Library of Science, is where I now work as Blogs Community Manager. The good people who edit PLoS Medicine are building a new collection about mental health strategies that are effective especially in what are called “low … Continue reading


Two New Reviews of A Lethal Inheritance

Book reviews appear all over the web…I list them here as I find them unedited… Attorney Melinda Gustafson Gervasi writes: Do not let the tile throw you, this is not a drama filled thriller. Rather, it is a moving account … Continue reading

Children Affected by War, New Psychological Intervention Program Shows Promise – Medical Daily

This dramatic improvement for traumatized youth in one of the worst places for children on the planet, Congo, is testimony to the power of psychotherapy to help someone heal from abuse and neglect. I can’t tell you how much this cheers me to read. Think about what it might mean for trauma exposed children here in the U.S. and everywhere to receive such concerted mental health care.

“This is the first time that such a therapy has been used in this way. Although Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy has the greatest evidence for its effectiveness in treating child victims of sexual violence in the West, to date no study has ever adapted it for use in developing countries affected by the twin evils of war and sexual violence,” O’Callaghan said.

The research team along with Congolese counselors encouraged girls to draw out pictures of their most traumatic events. The sessions also included relaxation techniques, mental imagery techniques and tips to cope with bad memories.

“The dramatic reduction in trauma, depression and anxiety, conduct problems and anti-social behavior shows that this kind of therapy is very effective in treating war-affected children who have been exposed to rape and sexual violence. In addition to the statistical results of the therapy many of the girls attested to how the intervention helped reduced their terrible nightmares, disturbing flashbacks and suicidal thinking. For me, that was the most rewarding part of our work in the DRC,” O’Callaghan said.

The research team also helped 50 boys reduce stress and anti-social behavior by psychological intervention program.

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and an NGO World Vision were behind this intervention method.

via Children Affected by War, New Psychological Intervention Program Shows Promise – Medical Daily.


Roche Schizophrenia, MS Drugs Move to Final Stages of Clinical Testing – Bloomberg

This is a very positive development, if it holds up: A new medicine for schizophrenia that helps the negative symptoms…often the toughest to deal with in recovery. Schizophrenia Symptoms RG1678, a so-called glycine reuptake inhibitor, was effective in reducing the … Continue reading


Mary R. Kennedy’s Death Teaches What United Behavioral Health Forgets: Depression Kills – Forbes

This is an incredible story from a psychologist about his struggle to make an insurance company keep paying for treatment for a suicidal depressed man whose response to treatment was intermittent at best–but who the therapist refused to give up … Continue reading


Schizophrenia Awareness Week and the Continuing Struggle to Make Early Treatment of Psychosis Available to Those Who Need It

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This month, May, 2012, includes Schizophrenia Awareness Week, in Australia (May 20th)  and the U.S (May 26).  These are  important occasions to spread the word that schizophrenia is a treatable disorder and that recovery from its symptoms is possible. Also … Continue reading


Not-So-Quick Fix: ADHD Behavioral Therapy May Be More Effective Than Drugs in Long Run: Scientific American

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This article offers an assessment of new psychotherapy treatment options for attention and self control problems in kids and teens, an important development for parents to consider…of course with the next challenge being getting your health insurance company to pay … Continue reading


In Transition: One College Student’s Story | Anxiety In Teens – the resource for youth with mental health disorders – anxiety, depression and beyond!

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This story so reminds me of what I went through with my son Sammy who made it through a half semester his first try at college away from home. Lesson learned: don’t rush a teen out of the house simply … Continue reading