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What kind of mental illness did Naomi Judd have? Ashley Judd opens up on mother's suicide

Naomi Judd reportedly passed away from a self-inflicted firearm wound (Image via KMazur/WireImage)
Naomi Judd reportedly passed away from a self-inflicted firearm wound (Image via KMazur/WireImage)
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Barsha Roy

The Judds star Naomi Judd passed away on April 30, 2022, following several years of struggles with mental health issues. At the time, her daughters Wynonna and Ashley shared that they lost their mother to the “disease of mental illness.”

More than a week after Judd’s passing, her daughter Ashley opened up about the singer’s demise and revealed that she had taken her own life. Speaking to Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, Ashley confirmed that her mother died due to a self-inflicted firearm wound:

“Once I say it, it cannot be unsaid. She used a weapon… my mother used a firearm. So that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we’re in a position that if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.”
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Ashley then shared that she co-incidentally visited Naomi Judd in Tennessee on the day of her passing:

“It was a mixed day. I visit with my mom and pop every day when I’m home in Tennessee, so I was at the house visiting as I am every day. Mom said to me, ‘Will you stay with me?’ and I said, ‘Of course I will.’”

It was also mentioned that Ashley was the one to discover Judd’s body following the incident:

“I went upstairs to let her know that her good friend was there, and I discovered her. I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.”
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Ashley said her mother’s condition was “catastrophic” and that the lies in her head convinced her to take drastic measures that ultimately led to her tragic demise:

“That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart, and the lie the disease told her was so convincing.”

Additionally, Ashley mentioned that she spoke about Naomi Judd’s demise so more people can learn about mental health struggles and seek professional help whenever needed:

“My mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish, and she was walked home. When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It’s very real, and it lies. It’s savage.”

Naomi Judd had previously opened up about her battle with mental health, including her three-year struggle with suicidal depression after the end of The Judds 2012 tour.


A look into Naomi Judd’s struggle with mental health

Naomi Judd battled severe depression throughout her life (Image via Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Naomi Judd battled severe depression throughout her life (Image via Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Naomi Judd has always been vocal about her lifelong struggles with mental health. The late singer previously said that her battle with mental health stemmed from an abusive and traumatic childhood.

During the peak of her career with The Judds in 1990, the performer had to announce her retirement after being diagnosed with hepatitis C. Although she was in remission by 1995, the condition took a toll on her mental condition.

In a 2006 interview, Judd revealed that she experienced depression, panic attacks, and separation anxiety after her daughter Wynonna embarked on a solo career following the former’s hepatitis C diagnosis.

Naomi Judd reportedly underwent “extensive interferon treatments” to battle her condition and also experimented with “integrated treatments,” and processes like biofeedback, aromatherapy, and meditation to get better. She said at the time:

“These personal ground zeros are what allow us to live. They strip us down, and you have no choice but to get rid of all this extraneous stuff.”

The country star further opened up about her struggles with depression in her 2016 memoir, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope. Judd confirmed that she was diagnosed with “severe depression” at the time:

“What I've been through is extreme. My final diagnosis was severe depression. They see me in rhinestones, you know, with glitter in my hair, that really is who I am. But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas, and not practice normal hygiene. It was really bad.”

In her book, Judd also shared that her situation turned out to be the darkest after The Judds' Last Encore tour came to an end in 2012. She said that she was haunted by her childhood memories and was left immobilized due to the depression:

“I never dealt with all the stuff that happened to me, so it came out sideways, as depression and anxiety. Depression is partly genetic, and I have it on both sides of my family.”
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Naomi Judd also opened up about suicidal thoughts:

“It’s so beyond making sense, but I thought, ‘Surely my family will know that I was in so much pain, and I thought they would have wanted me to end that pain.’”

She also told Good Morning America about being diagnosed with “treatment-resistant severe depression:”

“Treatment-resistant because they tried me on every single thing they had in their arsenal. It really felt like, if I live through this, I want someone to be able to see that they can survive.”

In her 2017 essay for NBC News, Judd wrote about the treatments she had to undergo to deal with depression:

“I had to go into serious treatment, and it was a long road — an incredibly painful road. There were times when I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
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Speaking about her depression, Naomi Judd said she had to rely on medication to continue living life:

“Depression is a disease of the brain, just like heart disease is a disease of the heart and diabetes is a disease of the pancreas. My brain simply doesn't make any of the happy chemicals it’s supposed to, and I have to use medication to give me a chance to have a life.”

Naomi Judd’s personal struggles even led her to work with the National Alliance for Mentally Ill and Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital as an advocate of mental health. Unfortunately, the artist succumbed to her mental health battle and took her own life last month.


Edited by Siddharth Satish
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