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M Abeo (they/them) is a Mental Health Advocate, Speaker, Podcast host, Producer and Photographer, and Creator of the Faces of Fortitude movement, which began as a series of portraits documenting the healing for those affected by suicide – providing a safe, stigma-free space both virtually and in person for mental health and suicide to be discussed. After losing their brother over a decade ago to suicide, and surviving their own severe attempt as a teen, M started this movement initially for their own healing. The portraits caught fire online and they quickly saw a need for others to have a safe space to share their stories. They now travel the country to capture portraits of those affected by the epidemic in any way (be it loss, attempt, or first responders) as a step towards their healing, and to educate people as both a mental health advocate + suicide loss and attempt survivor.
In September 2019 M delivered an emotional and poignant TEDx speech entitled“Celebrate the Survivor: Creating a Safe Space around Suicide”, in Ohio and her second TEDx has been confirmed for April 2021 at the acclaimed Ivy League – Dartmouth College. They currently present Keynote and Signature Talks about a range of topics within the suicide and mental health arena, such as Safe Spaces for Celebrating Survivors, Words Policing around Trauma in Society, How Post Traumatic Growth Can Help You Find your Purpose, and The Power of Grass Roots Cross Narration, with accompanying pop-up image galleries.
M’s FoF project has grown exponentially and is now considered by many in the mental health field, as an essential healing space for anyone who has experienced the trauma of suicide. They single-handedly manage all the projects under the Faces of Fortitude umbrella; the portrait work, traveling interactive photography exhibits, and in the wake of COVID19 a podcast entitled Face to Faces – A conversation series that provides a platform focusing on the LGBTQ+ & POC communities and their allies, in the areas of activism, politics, mental health, arts & entertainment, and community – discussing the human experience in our ever-changing world. Faces of Fortitude has a rapidly growing social media fan base, followers, and fans growing into an organic community of people creating safe spaces for each other across the world. In their spare time, M lives in the heart of the city in Seattle, Washington, and is working on a first-edition fine art book.
Celebrating the Survivors: Creating safe spaces around suicide
By sharing the painful story of their brother’s suicide, M examines the way they were able to heal in new ways by connecting with others experiencing similar stories. They remind us of the importance of creating safe places together to discuss stigmatized trauma stories, heal and grow.
• Importance of safety within storytelling
• How survivors of suicide can use their trauma as fuel to heal through Post Traumatic
• Optional pop-up portrait gallery featuring images and stories from M’s Faces of Fortitude project
Faces of Fortitude: Creating safety within trauma and loss
If the abrupt halt of “hustle culture” during COVID-19 taught us anything, it was that we weren't as focused on our mental health as we should have been. Using the power of plant life as a metaphor and their own vulnerability as a guide, M shows how staying with ourselves and truly listening when things are difficult, can actually work as a healing superfood if we allow it.
• The power of cross narration within story-telling
• Using discomfort as a Superfood
• How to recognize how our reactions are connected to our trauma
• Learning to listen to ourselves to better heal
Unearth Your Trauma
How many of us had to learn to care for ourselves differently during the pandemic quarantine? M shares their personal story regarding how learning to care for their plants showed them where they were neglecting their own self-care. They share six plant-as-metaphor steps they created to help us move through their healing journey.
• How we can learn to heal, using plant life as a guide
• The six steps to unearth trauma and create space for growth
• How COVID-19 changed the way we take care of ourselves
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