After a struggle with mental illness, Naomi Judd died at 76. Naomi was a member of The Judds, a country music duo inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2021.
In an emotional tweet, Naomi’s daughter, actress Ashley Judd, revealed her death.
“Today we sisters faced a catastrophe,” the message stated.
“Our lovely mother died of the illness of mental disease.” We’re entirely shattered.
“We’re dealing with a lot of loss right now, but we know that as much as we loved her, so did the rest of the world.
Let’s find out more. What condition did Na Judd have before she committed suicide?
What Was Naomi’s Illness Before Died By Suicide?
According to several sources, Naomi Judd, the legendary country singer and half of the mother-daughter duo The Judds, committed herself on Saturday at the age of 76 after a lengthy battle with mental illness. A representative for the late singer has yet to comment.
In a heartbreaking statement acquired by PEOPLE on Saturday, Naomi’s daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, revealed their mother’s death.
“We had a tragedy today as sisters. Our lovely mother died of the disease of a mental illness.
We’re destroyed. We’re dealing with a lot of sadness right now, but we know that as much as we loved her, so did the rest of the world. “According to the statement, “We’ve entered the uncharted ground.”
Larry Strickland, Naomi’s 32-year-old husband, said: “During this difficult time, Naomi Judd’s family has requested privacy. At this time, no other information will be shared.”
Naomi was a longstanding supporter of mental health and penned an open letter for Mental Health Awareness Week in 2018, which she shared with PEOPLE exclusively.
“The inevitable inquiry for anyone grieving the death of someone who committed suicide is, “Why did this happen?” We don’t have excellent answers, unfortunately, “At the time, the musician wrote.
“Suicidal behavior is associated with various behavioral brain illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Among these mental illnesses, suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death.”
“To better understand this issue, we must integrate suicide research into mainstream neurobiology and treat it like any other brain disorder,” the message read.
“Suicidal people have issues with mood, impulse control, and aggression, all of which are regulated by discrete neural circuits, but we still don’t know how these circuits go crazy in the brains of suicide victims.”
A Pain Too Great
Naomi Judd died on April 30, 2022—one day before her Country Music Hall of Fame induction. Died at 76. In a May 12 Good Morning America interview, Ashley Judd said her mother’s depression was so widespread that even her peers and fans “couldn’t fight the deception the disease told her.”
Her mother shot herself. Ashley said she’s dealing with “both grief and trauma” after finding her mother’s body.
Gunshot wounds kill too many Americans. However, linking death to mental illness—regardless of method—is remarkable. (CDC data showed 45,222 gun-related deaths in 2020.)
54% of suicide victims were undiagnosed, according to the CDC. 46% had mental health concerns (and probably more had mental illness but had not been diagnosed at the time of death.) Naomi disclosed her long-term mental health issues. Naomi writes about her severe depression and anxiety in her 2016 book River of Time; My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope. She wrote about suicidal thoughts.
The Judd sisters’ decision to blame Naomi’s death on mental illness rather than suicide is powerful.
“In some contexts naming the cause of death ‘suicide’ might be used to place more blame on the victim and avoid the idea that the person was struggling with a mental illness that created the suicidal behaviours,” says Nathaniel Wade, PhD, licenced psychologist and Professor of Psychology and Director of Training at Iowa State University. To highlight the sickness part of suicide thoughts and conduct, some may desire to highlight the cause of death as mental illness.
Mental Illness Stigma
While mental health awareness has increased and more people are speaking out, stigma still remains. Rhode Island College Assistant Professor of Physiological Psychology/Neuroscience Kymberlee M. O’Brien, MEd, PhD, states, “We are in a public health catastrophe. Discussing comorbid conditions like mental illness that might cause suicide. Talking about mental illness reduces stigma.
Education reduces mental disease stigma. Dr. Wade says, “For society-level change, some have employed social marketing and communication tactics to influence attitudes and behaviours connected to mental illness. This includes mental disease information (i.e., psychotic persons are much more likely to be victims of aggression than offenders) and beneficial strategies to deal with loved ones with mental illness.
Naomi, a mental health advocate, wrote for People magazine in 2018: “For everyone mourning the death of someone who committed suicide, an obvious question arises: Why did this happen?
We have poor answers. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression all have suicidal tendencies. These mental diseases’ primary cause of needless mortality is suicide.”
Suicide is preventable, but it does not indicate a person who commits suicide is weak, selfish, or wants to die. “Nobody can grasp it unless you’ve been there,” Naomi wrote in 2018.
“Typically, people do not die by suicide because they do not want to live—they die by suicide because they want to stop their suffering,” wrote Kristen Fuller, MD for NAMI in 2020. They feel hopeless and helpless. Suicidal ideation is not voluntary. They are experiencing a major mental health symptom due to mental illness or a challenging life situation, not just “thinking of themselves.”
There are therapy choices and diagnostics for cancer patients. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and medication can treat mental health issues, and progress can be tracked. Wade says, “There are techniques to track change, but the tools focus heavily on client/person self-report of such things as mood, thoughts, and behaviours. Thus, provider trust is crucial for patients to feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Many well-designed questionnaires, interviews, and measurements assess mental health progress. These aid progress tracking.”
Even while therapies are available, mental health patients may struggle to receive care. O’Brien writes, “A person undergoing a mental health crisis is already distressed. They may be too exhausted to contact a therapist or attend appointments due to emotional and physical discomfort, abnormal thinking, and weariness. A loved one can help a crisis victim by finding a therapist, reminding them, and going with them. Make sure the distressed individual is eating well and getting enough sleep.”
The Judd sisters wrote that losing a loved one to mental illness is heartbreaking. Unlike other illnesses, persons left behind may feel profound regret that they could have done more to prevent the outcome. Wade says, “Some of the better ways of dealing with it include talking openly with trusted people, seeing a mental health provider, reading experiences others have had, joining support groups, being authentic with one’s experience and letting the experience be present without having to _‘_fix it’ right away, journaling, and acknowledging the need to take care of and be patient with oneself.”
If you’re concerned about someone’s suicidal thoughts, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers advice. Advice:
- Communicate privately.
- Express your concern.
- Ask directly if they’re considering suicide (you will not be giving them the idea)
- Encourage them to see a doctor.
- Avoid disputing life’s value, dismissing issues, or giving counsel.
- Wade says, “It is crucial to speak about suicide to avoid euphemisms that can make suicide more taboo. Openly discussing suicide may reduce its stigma and aid others with suicidal thoughts.
Remember that everyone, regardless of appearances, struggles internally. “We all have presentation bias,” says O’Brien. Friends, family, and celebrities like Naomi can make us assume, “They have it all because of what we see on the surface.” However, mental health is unknowable. We need to talk about our progress and listen to others without judgement.