For several months, The Madison Courier news staff has been discussing how best to contribute to — or start — a dialogue about the growing number of suicides in our community.

The result of our discussions is a series of stories about suicide that begins today and will run through next week.

Our goal is to turn the “whispers of despair” to “shouts of please help.”

The series begins with a discussion with Jefferson County Coroner Rodney Nay who has been called to many suicide scenes. Also today, Courier Staff Writer Phyllis McLaughlin, who wrote the series, shares her thoughts on what she learned about suicide. McLaughlin found her research to be difficult, and talking with families of suicide victims —  and even one young woman who is battling severe depression — emotionally draining.

Numbers written on a sheet of paper become reality for those who lose a loved one to suicide. Statistics show that mental illness is an invisible reality that 1 out of 4 people live with every day. We need coordinated efforts at the local, state and federal levels to turn those statistics into action.

In Jefferson County, the Healthy Communities Initiative is addressing suicide. Our schools are offering counseling to students and are working suicide prevention into curriculums.

To be effective, however, programs and services need to be available, accessible and affordable for children, teens, adults and caregivers, and provide more than crisis intervention. This requires human and financial resources.

We thank those who agreed to share their personal stories with the community. Their courage will help shine light on the problem.

We want to issue a warning to our readers. Some of the stories contain graphic detail. We ask parents to review the stories before allowing their children to read them. We hope that the series sparks discussions in the home, in our schools, in places of worship and anywhere else that people gather to celebrate life.