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DEI Spotlight Events - January 2022

M Abeo Discusses Mental Health at NOVA

Mariangela "M" Abeo

Introduced by the new Medical Campus Provost, Dr. Shelly Powers, and presented by NOVA’s Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion and the MEC – M Abeo kicked off the DEI 2022 Spotlight Event series.

M is a Mental Health Advocate, Speaker, Podcast host, Producer and Photographer + 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 and suicide loss and attempt survivor.

“We value diversity because it promotes a culture of inclusion through the MEC community. More importantly, our students come from all over the US and the world,” said Powers. “The MEC supports, celebrates and supports it students’ differences. We would not be where we are without the unique experiences of our students.”

In the past three years, M’s 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 titled “​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.

‘Faces of Fortitude’ has 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 with poetry about depression and photographer’s notes as well as a memoir entitled The House of M.

At NOVA’s MEC campus, M talked about being trans and being x-gen and how they are in the middle of generations and learning. M. throughout the pandemic had embarked on over 150 recorded podcast sessions and found common threads through the voices of people they worked with. The project is an expansion of their photography series.

In showcasing their portraits to the NOVA audience through slides, they noted that, “If we can harness and take note of the data when we are in those dark places, it can be really healing for us.” M encapsulated themes based off of the caring of plants and offered metaphors in how to care for oneself. Themes were presented such as ‘Sit and Dig’, ‘Unearth the Roots,’ ‘How Does it Bloom?’, ‘Prune and Deadhead,’ ‘Nutrients and Patience,’ and ‘Rhythm of the Seasons.’

M further talked about how you can have hard conversations and make people feel loved all the while assisting those to find safe spaces. In closing, M stated, “There is no manual on how to deal with a pandemic and how not to be hard on mistakes during COVID. You are infallible, you make mistakes, but you are still deserving of joy, and can still go and enjoy and do good things.”

To view a recording of this event (NOTE: this recording is only available for enrolled students and NOVA faculty and staff), visit Click Academic Resources, then SSO Login, log in, and scroll down to DEI-Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Submitted by Hoang-Dung Nguyen, Public Information Officer.

DEI Spotlight Events are held monthly. For information about other programs by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, please visit, or contact Dr. Nathan Carter at