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 of the author’s exploration into her family tree, as well as societal norms, in the area of mental illness. A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers The Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness by Victorica Costello is a gripping piece of creative non-fiction.

Organized into three parts, and just over 200 pages long, the author has an excellent mix of personal accounts combined with sociological and scientific data. The mother of two teenage boys, she is forced to examine the reality of mental illness in her family tree, and herself, when her oldest son is diagnosed as schizophrenic.

From her grandfather to her parents to herself and finally to both of her sons, she pries behind the denial and learns the truth. With it discovers the increased risk her sons carried in their genetic make-up to developing mental health problems.

The final section of her book includes 10 steps parents can take to minimize the risk of a child developing mental health, which includes: focusing on prenatal health; treating your own mental health problems, and the importance of family dinners.

Whether your interest is in family trees, mental illness or memoirs — you will find something to enjoy in this book.

Posted by Melinda Gustafson Gervasi at 3:44 PM

via Illness, Death, and Taxes for the Middle Class: What I’ve Been Reading: A Lethal Inheritance by Victoria Costello.

Reviewed by as part of her 2012 Fifty Books Challenge

Victoria Costello, a single mother, finds herself at a difficult point when her eldest son is found behind a dumpster with no shoes on, outside of his school, drawing and not making any sense.  After years of what seemed like eccentric behavior she finds herself at a hospital in the mental ward trying to find help for her son.  Alex is diagnosed with schizophrenia, which is often onset in the late teens early 20s.  A couple of years later, her other son begins to suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety.

Costello becomes a pro-active mother and seeks out many treatment options while conducting her own research on children with mental illnesses and the transmission of mental illness through families.  Costello has an advantage in this area in that she is a science journalist, so wading through all the scientific jargon and gaining access to very well known and respected researchers is easier for her than most.

This book has been called the Henrietta Lacks for mental health.  I can see where the comparison comes in.  This part biography, part science non-fiction novel delves deep into genetics x environment as influencing factors of mental illness.  It is no where as good as the above mentioned book, but it is great.  I love science and I love the history of her family and the mental illnesses and her journey through it.

The thing I appreciate most about this book is that Costello advocates for prevention of mental illnesses.  And for her prevention means looking for early indicators in children, knowing your family mental health history.  Early detection of mental illness’ can help the person suffering from disease to get proper treatment and stave off the illness from getting worse.  It is strange that this point of view in the psychiatric world is not commonly practiced, by Costello and others are advocating for social change.

This book may be triggering for some.  But for those interested in this types of topics I definitely encourage it and I also encourage you to check out the NAMI website.

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