Singer-songwriter and country music legend Naomi Judd passed away on April 30. At the time, her daughters Ashley and Wynonna Judd said, “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” but they didn’t mention the cause of death. Now the family has come forward with the truth about what happened to Judd. Ashley Judd recently revealed that her mother ended her life using a firearm during a daytime TV interview.
While appearing on Good Morning America, Judd said it was “obviously way too soon” to be speaking about her mother’s death but that her father and sister “deputized” her to “speak on behalf of the family” before details of Judd’s death emerged in the press “without our control.”
It appears the family wanted to get ahead of the story by going public with the details before the media.
“That’s really the impetus for this timing,” she said, later adding, “We don’t want it to be part of the gossip economy.”
The actress went on to explain why it was important for the family to come forward with the truth at this time.
“When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It’s very real. It lies. It’s savage. Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers. I mean, that is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her,” Judd said. “The regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart, and the lie the disease told her was so convincing.” She described that “lie” as, “You’re not enough. You’re not worthy.”
Naomi was accepted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on May 1 just one day after her death. Her daughters Wynonna and Ashley accepted the honor on her behalf.
“My mama loved you so much, and she appreciated your love for her, and I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” Ashley said during the event. “Your esteem for her and your regard for her really penetrated her heart, and it was your affection for her that did keep her going in these last years.”
Experts say the symptoms Ashley was describing are in line with imposter syndrome. Research shows imposter syndrome is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. The syndrome tends to be more common among people of color and women, especially those in executive positions.
Ashley gave insight into her mother’s mental condition in the months leading up to her death.
“She had a lot of trouble getting off the sofa,” Judd said on GMA. But Naomi loved going to the Cheesecake Factory “where all the staff knew and loved her … and she always had $100 bills stuffed in her bra, and she was passing them out to the janitorial staff. Just an unfailingly kind, sensitive woman.”
Judd finally revealed that her mother died by self-inflicted gunshot wound. She said that she hoped sharing details of Naomi’s death would help raise awareness for those who know people that might be suffering.
“I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me. I knew she was fragile, so when I walked around the back of their house and came in the kitchen door, and she said, ‘There’s my darling. There’s my baby,’ and she lit up, I savored those moments. And every time we hugged, and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences. Because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone.”
Ashley also shared a letter from her sister Wynonna:
“I need to take some time to process and I need this time to myself. I’m not ready yet to speak publicly about what happened so I know you understand why I’m not there today,” it read. “We will do this piece differently, and I’m grateful we’re connected as we walk together through this storm. I just can’t believe she’s gone. I’m here. This will take time. I love you, dear sister; I’m proud of you and I’m here whenever you need me.”
This comes just a few days after the CDC released new figures that show the U.S. now has the highest rate of gun-related deaths in more than 25 years.
In 2020, 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved firearms, according to the CDC, which is somewhat higher than during the preceding five years. Gun-related homicides soared during the pandemic while gun-related suicides remained stable.
“The COVID-19 pandemic might have exacerbated existing social and economic stressors that increase risk for homicide and suicide, particularly among certain racial and ethnic communities,” the agency added in their report.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.