On Thursday, it was announced that Jessica Starr, long-time weatherperson on Detroit's Fox News morning show, had passed away after committing suicide.
Her coworkers were shocked, the city was grieving, and all of us were asking why. How could a young, talented, mother of two be driven to suicide with no one realizing.
As is so often the case, there were clues.
It should be said that there's been no reason given for Starr's suicide. We will never know the depths of despair she may have been dealing with, or what hidden causes lurked in her private life.
If you or someone you know is feeling depressed or having thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text 741-741. They provide free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day.
In November, Starr under went Lasik SMILE surgery. A procedure where a small incision is made in the cornea and tissue is pulled through it. It alters the cornea and is a correction for near-nearsightedness. Millions of procedures have been done and extreme side-effects are rare.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology list the risks as:
- Glare or halos around light
- debris where the corneal disc was removed
- inflammation of the area
Several other sites have mentioned pain or burning may be experienced during the recovery period.
Starr experienced just such pain and missed a week of work following the procedure. She attempted to return in mid-November, but returned home after a day. Her final Facebook post is in response to her Lasik recovery.
As a final message, it's chilling. It's easy to view it as a call for help and to draw a connection to Lasik where there may not be one. It's harder to ignore the connection when you hear about Paul Fitzpatrick.
Just a week before Starr took her own life, Fitzpatrick ended his. In a note to his family he apologized:
"I cannot experience any type of pleasure anymore. Just the pain of burning eyes inside my head...Since 1996 pain, pain, and more pain, please forgive me for not being strong enough to cope."
Fitzpatrick had the same procedure as Starr and experienced burning and pain he described as "needles in the eyes" for 20 years. His family said in his final months he kept his eyes closed permanently to lessen the pain.
His is the first death in Canada believed to be linked to Lasik eye surgery, but Paula Cofer, of the online support group Lasik Complications, says 17 cases in the US have been linked.
Starr's final post has served as a memorial for her fans and those moved by her story. It's startling to see the amount of people who have also been brought to the brink after Lasik.
The website LasikComplications has a page devoted to suicide. They are calling for more "in-chair" consultation to better screen applicants for the procedure. They say not enough research has been done into the mental toll eye surgery can take on patients.
As with any suicide, so much of the tragedy will remain a mystery. For now, a family grieves and we should offer them our prayers.