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Local nonprofit organizes workshop to tackle youth violence, suicide and mental health

"From The Heart Foundation" hosts a series of workshops focusing on youth gun violence awareness and suicide prevention.

For the last few weeks, we've been talking about the increasing gun violence amongst youth.

Saturday, local non-profit “From The Heart Foundation” held a workshop with hopes to prevent the violence before it begins.

"This is day two of our youth gun violence awareness and suicide prevention wellness weekend,” said Executive Director Dr. Halim Ali.

The Saturday workshop was packed into a room at the Carla Madison Recreation Center on Colfax Ave. A room that soon became a safe haven for those in attendance.

“All of them have the same problem. Anger issues. All of them. Severe anger issues. But it's hurt that’s being translated into anger issues,” Ali said.

That’s one of the primary reasons this workshop is taking place. It’s focused on the problems and triggers youth in the Denver community are facing. Topics range from Wellness Recovery Actions Plans (WRAP) and the Habilitation Empowerment Accountability Therapy Curriculum.

"The trend two years ago, Darius, it was youth on youth violence, right. When the pandemic hit, the trend shifted to self-harm and self-violence. But it was still gun violence because a lot of these teen suicides were done with firearms. Now as the pandemic subsides, and these social environments are opening back up and youth are gathering again, now both are trending,” Ali said.

Ali himself has seen how youth violence has played a role throughout the pandemic, losing two young teens he knew.

“In 2020 I lost my first youth to gun violence. In 2021, a couple of months ago, I lost my first youth to suicide,” Ali said.

15-year-old Jayden Randon of Aurora, who goes by "JayJay", has also seen his fair share of violence.

"Family violence, black on black violence, white on white violence,” JayJay said.

He also believes social media and music play a big role in the actions displayed amongst youth. Which is another reason why he chose to attend this workshop with a handful of mentors addressing post-crisis intervention, improving self-esteem and education.

"Things like this, it's beautiful, you know. It's encouraging,” JayJay said.

His reason for being in attendance is even bigger as he tries to become a better teen.

"I'm here to give the next generation a better perspective than what I've got. And what other people have got,” JayJay said.

He says his perspective has changed since gaining Halim as a mentor. But his fear is still a work in progress.

"My fear is dying before my parents do,” he said.

Dr. Ali is working to turn that fear into hope not only for JayJay, but the dozens of mentees who lean on him for help.

"My hope is that they know that someone cares. That they know that someone that looks like them who is not a police officer or a judge or a political figure,” Ali said.

JayJay hopes to leave his peers with some words of wisdom so they too can find a safe space.

"Everything doesn't have to end in gun violence or fighting. Sometimes you can just talk it out and let it be at that,” JayJay said.

Right now, “From The Heart” is looking for more mentors who can also serve as facilitators. If you’d like to help you can email Halim Ali at halim@fromtheheartent.com.

RELATED: Outreach workers respond to teen violence in Aurora

RELATED: Community leaders react to most recent Aurora shooting

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