Jessica Starr's husband talks about mental health toll of surgery complications

At FOX 2 we are still mourning the loss of friend and colleague Jessica Starr, who died by suicide in December after eye surgery eight weeks earlier.

A psychologist is talking about the mental health care often lacking in medicine after surgery and medical complications.

"We were with her, I was her best friend, we were always together trying to raise this 5- and a 3-year-old," said Dan Rose, Jessica's husband. "So for me to not see this and not be able to realize that this was happening, is upsetting for me."

This week, Jessica Starr's husband Dan Rose has been sharing her story in the hopes of helping others. 
No surgery, outpatient or not, should be taken lightly, Dan says. it's easier to see symptoms she wasn't doing well, now. The family hopes others will take this tragedy and learn.
Jessica died by suicide on December 12th, eight weeks after getting a routine SMILE laser surgery to correct her vision. 
Things didn't get better as she had hoped. She became overwhelmed. 
"This tragedy really brings into the conversation that mental health problems and distress are very serious and really require attention, as soon as we become aware they are impacting our daily functioning," said Dr. Erika Bocknek.

Bocknek, a psychologist says the mind, body and the connection between the two, needs more attention in our medical world.  

"There was some regular pathway for individuals and families after either receiving medical care or receiving medical information that may be distressing or may require adaptation that there were some clear pathway for people to go from their physical healthcare provider to a referred mental health care advisor."

Unfortunately, many doctors treat physical issues and separately, mental health counselors deal with the mind. 

But the two, she says are connected. So it becomes the patient's burden to realize this - and then act.  

"There really is a division between mental health and physical health services," Bocknek said. "And people really have to self-advocate, in order to act in order to access mental health services. There are great medical providers who take that seriously and make that referral, but in many cases families really have to advocate for themselves and reach out for the mental care they need."

When it comes to suicide, this statistic says a lot about what more can still be done to help people who are hurting: 10 percent of people who died of suicide previously reported chronic pain ahead of taking their own life, Bocknek says. 

"When you go to your primary care physician, when you go to the hospital the settings don't likely have systematic mental health services being provided," she said.

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Something that needs to change. In the meantime, before going through any surgery or in the event of a medical issue, just pay attention to yourself or your loved ones.  

"If we can save one life and at least make someone aware, even a spouse, if a husband gets this procedure," Rose said, "I want the wife to just watch for signs."  

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.