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Teens and the Internet: The Positive Power of Families

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While many teens these days are sneaking on to their computers to build their Internet social sites and chat with their friends, Caitlin's parents are encouraging her to be involved on the Internet in a very constructive manner.

I met Caitlin's mother when she was teaching a class designed and offered through an organization called NAMI – the National Alliance for Mental Illness. In this class, the teachers/facilitators work with caregivers whose charges have recently received a diagnosis of mental illness/disorder in order to better understand what that diagnosis means and how they can best advocate for the ones they are caring for.  Because Caitlin's mother is such a positive role model for many, it is no surprise to me that she is practicing what she preaches and is being a positive influence upon her own child.

What makes this story about Caitlin unique is that she is:

  • 15 years old,
  • diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder,
  • recently diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, too.

She's learning how to work in the Internet world by selling books online at Half.com, as well as selling her paintings on eBay.  So far there is only one painting being sold on eBay, but Caitlin has actually sold over 200 books since May 1st.

 Caitlin's Passion

Mother's description of the art piece: "This is an original piece… an acrylic painting in reds, yellows and blacks and represents the coming of age angst felt by us all during our teen years. It is called Autumn Fire."

In a day and age when many diagnosed with various mental illnesses feel exasperated and left with few options in their lives, Caitlin's mother goes on to describe Caitlin's ongoing recovery process in the following manner: 

Caitlin for years had to deal with the disease as a sibling of a younger brother and for three years we thought her symptoms were the emotional response of growing up with bipolar disorder disrupting the family.  This January she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder as well.  Caiti is prone to panic attacks and also has cut herself in the past.  She is doing better with a mixture of Welbutrin, Prozac and Abilify.   We are helping her build her self esteem with this online business where she has to manage her books, ship them out, organize them, keep books etc.  Right now, she has over 500 books online.  We accept donations from friends and family and try to pick up books at garage sales as well.

A diagnosis can often steer the parents in the direction of helping their children find the balance in their lives; sometimes, getting a better definition of the diagnosis can lead to clearer pathways for a much more balanced solution in their lives.  Finding constructive means to steer hope as a part of the balanced solution as well can be a daunting task at times; apparently, Caitlin's passion for her newfound entrepreneurship has been fueled and inspired by her parent's excitement, encouragement, and faith in her abilities.

Caitlin's parents can serve as a fine example in turning what might appear as a negative diagnosis by many into a positive, one which serves to inspire other parents to take a look into what their children diagnosed with mental illness disorders can do — rather than what their children can't do.  Hillary Clinton is often credited with stating that "it takes a village to raise a child"; however, I am a firm believer that, while there are many influences throughout the village, it certainly does begin at home with the love, support, and encouragement of one's family.  One, without the other, provides only a part of the picture – and to make the picture complete, it takes everyone seeking viable solutions that are often times found outside of the box of the "normal" process of thinking.

When there is a reason to come together in an amicable manner and work towards some productive goals, it is always a healthy way to approach it as a united family unit – in spite of any adversities.  It is nice to hear heartwarming stories where the innovative power of technologies are bringing together families, instead of pushing them further apart!

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  • Scott Butki

    This is a fascinating, inspiring piece. Thanks for writing it.