Episode 17: Mariangela Abeo Speaks On Creating A Safe Space for Suicide Survivors

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The trauma of losing a loved one to suicide is said to the post traumatic stress experienced by plane crash survivors.  Not only does your heart grieve for the loss of that person, but you are also left with a minefield of emotions, thoughts and questions that may never be answered.  Grief is a powerful force, something we cannot process alone, and something that shapes the rest of our lives.

Our guest today is the incredible Mariangela Abeo.  Being a suicide survivor herself and also knowing the deep grief of losing her younger brother to suicide, Mariangela is no stranger to Trauma yet somehow, through years of counselling and personal growth, she rose from the ashes of despair to create something beautiful out of her experiences.

Fueled by the loss of her brother and beginning with a simple self portrait, Mariangela started a movement called Faces of Fortitude.  The project lays a foundation of healing through captured portraits of those personally affected by attempted or completed suicide, and works to provide a safe, stigma-free space for mental health to be discussed, and stories of loss and survival to be shared.  Mariangela has since been a popular Ted talk speaker and continues to work as a powerful advocate in the suicide prevention space.

In this episode, Mariangela shares her personal story, the severe suicide attempt that she miraculously survived and her journey through the grief of losing her brother.  Through her work with Faces of Fortitude, Mariangela has met many people dealing with grief of a similar kind and she shares how the process of hearing other people’s stories has been instrumental to her own personal healing.

We may never be able to relate to somebody’s grief and trauma on a personal level, but we can be a safe place for those who desperately need help.  Mariangela shares from her experience some ways we can help the people around us who are dealing with grief and mental illness.  Sometimes all that is needed is an open ear and an empathetic heart.  


[3:20] - How Sam and Mariangela originally connected while they prepared for their Ted talks  

[4:17] - The fortitude that arises in someone who has survived a suicide attempt and how people with similar experiences are drawn to each other

[5:43] - The helpfulness of cross conversation in understanding where people are coming from

[7:00] - Mariangela opens up about the her severe suicide attempt at age 17 and the grief and guilt she faced when her brother ended his own life at age 26

[9:40] - The trauma of losing her brother and her journey into advocacy work

[11:43] - The beginnings of Faces of Fortitude and how it helped Mariangela in her own journey of healing

[14:30] - Post traumatic growth and how Mariangela started Faces of Fortitude with no photography training. 

[17:10] - The moment Mariangela was caught off guard and broke down while taking a photo of a woman whose husband committed suicide 

[18:39] - Strategies and techniques we can use to be a safe place for somebody who is in need

[20:00] - The best thing someone said to Mariangela when her brother died and how affirming it is when you show someone empathy

[23:00] - “Tradition is peer pressure from your ancestors” - holding onto family traditions at the expense of your mental health

[25:00] - It’s a new era and it’s important to talk about your mental health struggles. You don’t need to “suck it up” and “deal with it” on your own.

[26:30] - How body language creates a stigma that people don’t even recognise

[29:00] - What it was like connecting with Zac Williams to talk about the death of his father Robin Williams

[33:00] - Working through emotions around how you feel after healing your trauma

[33:10] - The importance of setting clear boundaries

[34:30] - Mariangela talks through her latest project yet to launch - Thousand Faces of Fortitude

[37:00] - Tips on dealing with the struggles of COVID life and how Mariangela approaches motherhood

[38:00] - Tactics to help with anxiety during periods of isolation


Website: https://facesoffortitude.com/

Instagram: @facesoffortitude

Facebook: FacesofFortitudePortraits

Twitter: @MariangelaAbeo

Thanks for listening to another episode of It Ain’t Weak to Speak with Sam Webb.

If after listening to this episode and you don't quite feel right or you want to reach out to someone to talk to, we have provided some useful resources below. 

For immediate support please call one of the following 24/7 hotlines. Someone will be ready to take your call. Remember, ‘It Ain’t Weak to Speak’

If you are in Australia:

Emergency: 000

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

If you are in the United States:

Emergency: 911

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text LIVIN to 741741 in the United States

If you would prefer to speak with someone face-to-face, we recommend visiting your local GP (doctor) who will be able to have a chat with you about what is going on in your life and refer you to a mental health professional if need be.

For some tools to help you with things like stress, low mood, general worries, please check out our LIVIN tips and tricks here.

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