Ashley Judd reveals ‘lie’ Naomi Judd believed before suicide

In confirming that Naomi Judd died by suicide Thursday, her daughter Ashley Judd explained that her mother’s profound mental illness locked her into a “lie” commonly believed by people in deep despair — that everything is hopeless, the pain won’t end or that they are worthless, unloved and shouldn’t go on living.

The Judd family matriarch died on April 30 at age 76, the day before she and her older daughter Wynonna, who made up the beloved country music duo The Judds, were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

But somehow Naomi Judd, the legendary, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, couldn’t believe that anyone, including her country music peers, would think so highly of her, as Ashley Judd explained in an interview with Diane Sawyer, which aired Thursday on “Good Morning America.”

The “Double Jeopardy” actor also said her mother “couldn’t hang on” another day to be recognized by her peers.

“That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her,” Ashley Judd said. “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.”

The lie that Naomi Judd’s unrelenting mental illness told her were “you’re not enough, you’re not loved, you’re not worthy,” Ashley Judd said, adding, “Her brain hurt. It physically hurt.”

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: Actress Ashley Judd (L-R), singers Naomi and Wynonna Judd arrive at the "YouthAIDS Annual Benefit Gala 2003" at Capitale on October 27, 2003 in New York City. The YouthAIDS organization is currently working in 70 countries to educate and protect kids from a life of HIV and AIDS. Through theatre, media, music, fashion and sport YouthAIDS promotes decreased sexual activity and protected sex. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images For YouthAIDS)
Actress Ashley Judd and singers Naomi and Wynonna Judd arrive at the “YouthAIDS Annual Benefit Gala 2003” at Capitale on October 27, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images For YouthAIDS) 

Ashley Judd also disclosed that her mother died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The daughter was speaking from Tennessee, where she, her mother and sister have homes. She said she had been staying with her mother and discovered her mother’s body, a moment that she said has added to her grief and trauma.

Judd explained to Sawyer that the family was “uncomfortable” about saying too much about how Naomi Judd died, but shared the information about the firearm because they expected it to eventually became public in other ways.

The Judd family’s discomfort with sharing this information echoes concerns among suicide prevention experts about disclosing too many details about a person’s suicide methods. Experts say that disseminating details and graphic images of a suicide are known to increase the risk of other vulnerable, at-risk people attempting suicide.

But on related issues, Ashley Judd said the family felt it was important to talk about her mother’s mental illness and to help people understand why deeply depressed people have trouble seeing outside of their pain. When announcing her death on April 30, she and Wynonna Judd said they had lost her “to the disease of mental illness.”

“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,” Ashley Judd continued. “It’s very real … it lies, it’s savage.”

In the years before her death, the multiple Grammy Award-winning writer and singer was open about her ongoing struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal despair in interviews and in her 2016 memoir, “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope.”

While promoting her memoir, Judd told “Good Morning America” that her depression led to several stays in psychiatric hospitals and combinations of different medications. Unfortunately, the “Love Can Build a Bridge” singer said she had been treatment resistant.

Judd also told People that her depression left her “completely immobilized” and unable to leave her house for weeks.

“Think of your very worst day of your whole life – someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease — you can take all of those at once and put them together and that’s what depression feels like,” Naomi Judd told People.

Judd also explained how her disease made her think her family would be OK with her ending her life. She said: “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 (through suicide).”

Experts say that people who feel suicidal are usually overwhelmed by painful emotions and tend to see death as the only way out. They lose sight of the fact that suicide is a permanent “solution” to a temporary state, according to an online information page from UC Santa Cruz’s Counseling and Psychology Services.

In fact, most people who attempt suicide but survive later say they are glad they didn’t die, and most people who die by suicide could have been helped, the page said.

Suicide prevention experts also say there are common warning signs for people at risk of suicide, and they should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or other crisis hotlines if they or someone they know exhibits any of these signs.

The signs include: talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves; looking for a way to kill themselves; and expressing feelings of hopelessness, being trapped on in unbearable pain, having no reason to live, or being a burden to others. Other signs can include mood swings, increased agitation or anger, increased use of alcohol or drugs, reckless behavior, sleeping too much or too little or becoming isolated.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People also can text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.


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