When science journalist Victoria Costello was told that her 17-year-old son had paranoid schizophrenia, she began a ten-year odyssey to research how genetics and environment are predictors of mental illness and substance abuse.

Part memoir and part handbook, A Lethal Inheritance is a highly readable reckoning of Costello's two sons' mental illness, her own undiagnosed depression and the discoveries she made while trying to help them and herself.

The first section of the book discusses early signs and predisposition. For example, in a 1990 family study, researchers collected home movies from fifteen families with a schizophrenic adult. "They easily identified the pre-schizophrenic children from their siblings because of their flatter emotional states (they showed less joy or distress) and less coordinated movements."

Part 2 is about her own family illness and  history of addiction, going back three generations. One chapter is entitled "The Irish Factor." It describes a county in western Ireland with the world's highest rate of schizophrenia and how social factors play a part.  Another one, "Grandpa's Psychological Autopsy," is about her grandfather, who committed suicide by lying on railroad tracks.

The final section, "The Science and Practice of Recovery and Prevention," explains ways to be the first line of defense for your child's mental health. How to use family history as a guide for treatment, getting the right care and the top ten things a parent can do to safeguard a child's mental health are covered in depth.

Written by Lisa on March 1, 2012


Victoria Costello on March 1, 2012


I was delighted to have this thoughtful review of my book pop up tonight via my Google Reader. Here we are losing book review sections from so many newspapers. It's great to have libraries and librarians stepping in to fill the void. I invite you to visit my blog, where I post news on research concerning child and family mental health:

Happy Reading Denver..
Victoria Costello
San Francisco, CA

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