The death of Naomi Judd hit country fans everywhere, but her death does not have to be in vain. It can help others by building awareness.
TW: talk about suicide
On April 20, 2022 country music lost one of the best, Naomi Judd, who was a part of the country duo group “The Judds” with her daughter Wynonna. The two were to get inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame the day after Naomi died of “the disease of mental illness” were the first reports of her death, with later reports of a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound as the cause of death.
It was interesting to read the headlines saying that Judd died of mental illness versus by suicide like many other headlines have been in these events. As I am a curious person, I decided to take a deep dive into Naomi and see what I could find out.
An NBC News article by Kalhan Rosenblatt about Judd goes into detail about her mental health. It says that the end of the Judds’ “Last Encore” tour in 2012 is when her depression took over. In her book “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope” she goes into detail about her depression and how it got worse after the tour when suppressed memories of her childhood re-emerged.
In the NBC article, Judd stated “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.” The article continued with “Judd said she was immobilized during her depression as her muscles atrophied from lack of movement. An elevator was installed in her home to help her traverse the floors of the house.” With a family history of depression, she was later diagnosed with treatment-resistant severe depression and she stated “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.” During this time she spent time in psychiatric wards to help with her battle.
During 2012 when her depression hit after the “Last Encore” tour, her suicidal ideation became to be too much and she convinced herself that her family would understand her reasonings for wanting to die. She said in an interview with People Magazine “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.’”
Not only was Judd trying to tackle her depression but she was also going through physical changes due to her treatment for her depression. In 2016 she said that “Medications caused her face to swell and her hair to fall out, lithium caused her right hand to shake, and that she looked horrible.”
This led to her being an advocate for others working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital “to try to reduce stigma and get the word out about treatment for mental illness,” Judd wrote in 2017.
“So I know now that there are almost 44 million people in America that experience mental illness in a given year, if you’ve got a pulse, then you’re fighting some battle, whether it’s a diagnosis of depression, like 16 million people, or one of anxiety, like 42 million people, or something else. And there’s power in numbers: it means that there are other people. You’re not alone,” Judd had stated about the number of people battling mental health.
In 2018, Judd and Dr. Daniel R. Weinberger published a letter titled “Love Can Build a Bridge” which discusses the fact that suicide is a preventable death.
Part of the letter says “For everyone mourning the death of someone who committed suicide, an inevitable question arises: Why did this happen? Unfortunately, we don’t have very good answers.” The closing of the letter states “In fact, the federal government spent more money last year to study dietary supplements than to understand why Americans decide to take their own lives,” the pair wrote. “It’s about time we do better.”
Naomi Judd battled with depression most likely her whole life and it came at her full force in 2012, to the point where she thought that her family would be understanding and supporting her in killing herself. She fought the battle and she was an advocate for her own illness. I would agree that she lost her battle with the disease of mental illness as her daughters Wynonna and Ashley stated in their statement after her death.
Naomi and Wynonna were a powerhouse in country music winning Best Country Performance by a Duo for their song “Love Can Build a Bridge” in 1992. Best Country Performance by a Duo for “Give a Little Love” in 1989. Best Country Performance by a Duo for “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days) in 1987. Best Country Performance by a Duo for “Why Not Me” in 1986. Best Country Performance by a Duo for “Mana He’s Crazy” in 1985 the same year they were nominated for Best New Artist.
I feel that ending this article with a verse from “Love Can Build a Bridge” is a fitting tribute and ending to this article.
“Love can build a bridge, between your heart and mine, love can build a bridge, don’t you think it’s time? Don’t you think it’s time?”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.