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A Lethal Inheritance Paperback – 28 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (28 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616144661
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616144661
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,559,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"This honest, lucid book examines the urgent problems of family history and early diagnosis in mental illness. . . . It will be invaluable to families trying to understand their own history, and to those who have been blind to such history."
-Andrew Solomon, National Book Award recipient for The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

"Victoria Costello's sad but gripping account of her family's struggles to reach recovery demonstrates the value of resilience and persistence."
-Paul Raeburn, Former AP chief science correspondent and author of Acquainted with the Night: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children

"A Lethal Inheritance . . . should be required reading for any parent with a family history of mental illness, for pediatricians, and for educators. . . . As a mother, I am grateful to [Costello] for giving me the tools to understand the risks my family history presents to my children. But more importantly, I am grateful to [her] for her insights on how both to avert and to survive a child's mental health crisis."
-Ayelet Waldman, Author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace

"Costello skillfully weaves all the latest medical research with an evocative and moving account of her two sons' descents into the depths of schizophrenia and depression and then moves upward into hope and recovery. . . . A Lethal Inheritance is a graceful balance between science and memoir."
-Linda Gray Sexton, Author of Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide

"As a society, we're still on that long journey to understand mental illness, both in an individual and in the spreading circles of its effects on families and on communities. Victoria Costello's compassionate and compelling personal journey through the subject allows us to explore those circles as she does so herself. Read it because the lessons are so valuable--and read it because it's a story so beautifully told."
-Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

"Both an affecting chronicle of her family's mental illness and a useful guide to detection and prevention. . . . Costello presents a book of vigorous personal and factual research."
-Publishers Weekly

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.

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