Teen author using her tragedy to help people with mental illness

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A Houston teenager is using her tragedy to help others with mental illness. Foti Kallergis reports.

A Houston high school student is taking her family's tragedy and turning the page - literally.

Kristina Mathai, a 17-year-old high school junior, is officially an author, and she has a personal cause.

As a kid, Kristina was always daydreaming, imagining a secret world.

She told abc13, "I had a really big imagination. I imagined this secret forest and I had all to myself. And I implemented my friends in there."

It was a world much different than the painful one she grew up in. At 4 years old, her father committed suicide. She said, "When I was little, I think I would dream about him a lot."

At the age of 10 she began putting her imagination and feelings to paper.

Kristina said, "I would have these imaginary scenarios running through my head. It was like a continuous story."

Her story is set in a future in a world without trees. The story is built around a colony of people living in a glass dome.

Terry Adams, a young girl, is kidnapped and taken to that imaginary forest. It's a story of adventures, romance and a personal message.

Kristina said of that message: "Life and death and family, those types of things. The really hard stuff."

After seven years of rough drafts and changes, the novel is now published.

Kristina said, "Everyone is really excited about it, but I feel like I've waited so long for this."

It's called Acacia - a big accomplishment for such a young author, but it means much more.

Kristina said, "This is kind of my own way of trying to understand what happened."

She says understanding means more research about happened to her father, and mental illnesses.

Kristina is donating some her book sales to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. She said, "I figured I should do something more with what I created."

For the full report, watch the video in the player above.
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