The statistics are startling.

One in four adults, or 61.5 million Americans, experiences a mental health issue in a given year, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness.

One in five children ages 13 to 18 has, or will have, a serious mental illness.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of adult death in the United States and the third for ages 15 to 24. More than 90 percent of those who commit suicide experienced one or more mental disorders.

Beginning next Sunday, the Observer-Reporter will launch a yearlong series, Mental Health Matters, which will examine mental health issues and how they are being addressed in Washington and Greene counties and bordering communities. We decided to introduce the series in May in recognition of Mental Health Month.

A large part of the series will be devoted to education, in an effort to help eliminate the stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis.

“Mental illness doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful,” said Lynne Loresch, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Washington County. “You can have mental illness and be successful.”

Loresch, who leads a local anti-stigma campaign, said stigma prevents many from seeking treatment.

“The shame is deep,” Loresch added.

In the months ahead, we will examine impediments to the delivery of mental health services and treatment options. And we will offer resources for those who are uncertain where to turn for help.

Readers will be introduced to some of the success stories, told by the people who are dealing with mental health issues. And you will meet families who struggle to come to terms with the death of loved ones who couldn’t cope and took their own lives.

As part of our digital content, we will host a live online chat with a local therapist who will answer readers’ questions about mental health.

This week, in conjunction with the series kick-off, we will be live-streaming an original play at the Teen Outreach Adolescent Advisory Board’s annual Youth Conference at Washington & Jefferson College. The advisory board plans its annual conference around a theme, with this year’s focus on respect and awareness for mental health.

Visit www.observer-reporter.com/live at 1 p.m. Thursday to watch the play presented by the Teen Outreach educational drama group, the Real Talk Performers.

Because mental health matters.

Liz Rogers joined the Observer-Reporter in 1982. She has worked as a reporter, copy editor, night editor and managing editor for news before being named editor of the newspaper in 2011, succeeding longtime editor Park Burroughs,. In 2016, she was named executive editor, with oversight responsibilities for the editorial departments at the daily O-R and the weekly publication, The Almanac, a community newspaper that circulates in the South Hills. She has won numerous state and regional writing awards, and also writes occasional food features for the newspaper. Follow her on Twitter @EditorOR.

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