When discussing the issues that young Black men are going through on a daily basis, what mainly comes up is gun violence. Deservedly so, it’s an important issue that needs to be resolved. There are young Black men across the country who are taking preventative measures to make sure gun violence decreases in our communities.
What is not discussed enough is the increasing suicide rates among young Black men. Why the increase? No one is exactly sure, but Halim Ali is doing his best to ensure suicide decreases in Denver, Colorado.
According to the Denver Post, Ali is the founder of the non-profit organization From The Heart Enterprises, which is an organization that helps Black men face the trauma and stress that can result in other vicious acts, such as gun violence and suicide.
The high rates of suicide is a big issue in Denver, and Ali is trying to find creative ways to lower the rates.
“It’s a matter of life and death,” Ali said.
The age-adjusted rate of suicide for Black men in Colorado has nearly doubled since 2013, when the rate was 10.2 suicides per 100,000. By 2020, that rate grew to 20.2 suicides per 100,000, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data. National suicide rates among Black people peak during adolescence and young adulthood, then decline, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
“The goal is to let all of our men know of the services we provide and to create an open space where men feel like they can talk,” he said. “I want them to know it’s OK to hurt. It’s OK to cry.”
The COVID-19 pandemic created additional complications for young people, Ali said. Many in-school programs, like some of his own, were halted last year when schools went virtual. Students were forced to be at home, even though some homes are not safe or good environments for learning. Staying in touch with some of his mentees became a challenge for Ali.
But demand for mental health services for young Black men boomed.
Ali is trying to raise funds to have a 24/7 crisis center where Black men would have access to mental health services that are normally not readily available. Those services would include “meditation spaces, housing services, workshops on healthy relationships, self-care and goal-planning in a safe and welcoming environment,” according to the Denver Post.
Why is this important? Because too often when people are having mental health issues, they do not know where to go. Having something readily available for Black men to go to in their time of need would only benefit the Black community.
Ali sees an undercurrent of anger in all of the young men he mentors. Unresolved trauma from violence, abandonment and other wounds too often manifests as violence, self-harm, substance use, isolation and hopelessness, Ali said. But U.S. culture teaches young men, especially Black men, to stay silent about their emotions and to shield themselves from vulnerability, Ali said.