Suicide Rates Among Black Men Are Rising in Colorado

Halim Ali poses for a portrait with mentees Jayden Randon, 15, left, and Andre Coleman, 16, right, in Denver on Nov. 22, 2021. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Andre Coleman, 16, doesn’t fight anymore.

When he gets angry now, he steps away. Or takes a few minutes to flow through some tai chi moves he learned from his mentor. He gets some weird looks from classmates if he starts tai chi while sitting at this desk at school, but the looks are worth the chance to avoid a fight.

“It was a new life,” he said. “I had to learn how to breathe.”

That’s exactly how his mentor, Halim Ali, hopes Coleman and the other young Black men under his tutelage will approach challenging situations in the future. Ali founded the nonprofit From the Heart Enterprises to help young Black men address the trauma and anger that can turn into isolation, violence and suicide.

Ali is particularly concerned about rising gun violence among teens in metro Denver — especially after nine students were injured in two shootings outside a pair of Aurora high schools in one week — and about rising suicide rates in Colorado’s Black male population.

“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.

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SOURCE: The Denver Post, Elise Schmelzer