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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. Both of her sons suffered for years and were occasionally hospitalized-the eldest, Alex, was finally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 18 in 1998; his younger brother by six years, Sammy, battled anxiety and depression. While signs of antisocial behavior had been prevalent for years, Alex's illness exploded at age 14 (not unusual during the maturation process of adolescence), while Sammy, too, hit middle school "like a wind-up toy whose batteries simply gave out." What Costello had to face was what she calls "connecting the dots" from her children's mental illness to that of several generations of family members, such as her father's alcoholism and depression, her sister's death from a drug overdose, and her own depression and abuse of alcohol. Attempting to diagnose children for mental disorders takes into account this predisposition and family history (Costello cites one study of the susceptibility of the Irish to mental illness), useful for early detection and treatment; moreover, recognizing and avoiding environmental factors for at-risk kids such as chaos at home (i.e., divorce), bullying, and drug abuse can actually prevent the onset of mental illness. In the end, Costello presents a book of vigorous personal and factual research. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Science journalist Costello's educative memoir gives poignant testimony to the fact that not only do we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us; we carry their burdens as well. At the point where it was almost too late to intervene in her eldest son's mental deterioration, Costello embarked on a journey backward in time that moved her and both of her sons forward into a brighter future. While admitting Costello's son to a psychiatric ward, the admissions counselor inspired her to examine the skeletons in her family's closet. Therein Costello discovered generations of psychiatric issues that, upon investigation, increased her and her sons' risk for mental illness. Had these problems not been kept secret as too many families do she could have avoided present-day heartbreaking circumstances. The story Costello shares is a twofer. It is a cautionary tale about the price families pay for keeping mental illness secret. It is also a road map for identifying risk factors for and recognizing early signs of psychiatric issues, the better to preempt advanced disease.--Chavez, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist