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Victoria Costello is our Member Teleseminar guest Friday, March 16 with the topic  Finding Your Way Through Your Family History.    You’re in for a deep and informative conversation about truth, memoir, scientific research combined with story, and the legacy of mental illness.

In her informative and teeth-clenching memoir, Victoria does a brave thing: she combines her considerable scientific research about the causes and treatments of mental illness—the history of and the current state of treatment—with her own family’s case study—the story of herself and her children. She makes an excellent point with her book— no matter how much we know or how smart we are, there are mysterious forces in life that blindside us, that bring us to our knees. Mental illness does that to families, and worse—it’s often a hidden illness shrouded in ignorance, guilt, and shame, and often a secret even from the sufferers themselves. That was the case in my own family where no one ever had a label or a diagnosis, though my mother was diagnosed in the last few weeks of her life–too late to change anything with the help of medication or treatment.

As ubiquitous as mental illness is in our society–just this week there was a huge article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the dangers of allowing people to be on the streets untreated–too often diagnoses are incorrect or non-existent when, if properly understood, lives could be saved and immense suffering prevented.

Since funding has consistently been cut for programs that include treatment for the mentally ill, too often treatment even for adolescents is non-existent, leaving people to fall upon impossible conditions—living on the street and/or families trying to help someone who is beyond their help or expertise. And for families like Victoria’s, once the child is of age, the parents no longer have any power to insist on medication or treatment, even if it were available. Since the teen years are when children are more vulnerable to the onset of mental illness, it stands to reason that the child might not be out of danger when they become of age and have to make their own decisions. One of the frustrating aspects of trying to deal with the mentally ill is that they believe that they are either fine or all-powerful, when in fact their thinking and perceiving are distorted. What a nightmare for any family member.

A Lethal Inheritance also points us toward the need to understand and research the genetic and genealogical backgrounds in our own families. In her family as in mine, mental illness, mostly undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, has planted seeds in later generations, the societal, biological, genetic, and psychological factors all aligned for a perfect storm. Victoria’s book is easy to read, despite the intensity of the material. Perhaps it’s because she weaves the cool-headed research in with her often painful story. It’s a success story too—told by someone who knows the journey and can help you on yours.

I’m so pleased that I’ll be able to talk about this important material and Victoria’s journey to write her memoir at our Member Teleseminar March 16. If you are a member, you will automatically receive the call-in phone number. If you are not yet a member, you can find out about the many audios, discounts, and advantages to membership here.

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