On the Anniversary of Naomi Judd’s Suicide, Daughter Ashley Judd Channels Pain Into Advocacy
Naomi Judd, who, along with her daughter Wynonna Judd, formed the Country Music Hall of Famer duo The Judds, died of a gunshot wound to the head after a lifelong battle with mental illness. Over the course of her life in the spotlight, the singer had been candid about her battles with depression, suicidal ideation, post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.
On Sunday (Apr. 30), Ashley Judd marked the one-year anniversary of her mother's death with a reflection published in TIME. In the piece, she described the experience of marking her first birthday without her mother there, with sentiments that she'd expressed in a birthday post earlier in April. She also wrote about the experience of going through her mother's personal effects, such as her hairbrush, her clothing and her calendars.
"These intimate exchanges with the private fortify me," Judd wrote. "They remind me of the interior landscape of my mother's soul, the innocent God-scape that somehow remained untouched by the mental illness that marred her life."
Judd also spoke of the parts of her mom's legacy that she plans to carry on, referring to the many instances of sexual violence Naomi survived over the course of her life, beginning with a sexual assault on her by a family member when she was four years old. Judd has spoken publicly about these traumas, and their link to her mental health struggles.
"With April being not only the anniversary of her passing but also Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I will therefore accept in her honor the Lifetime Igniting Impact Award from the World Without Exploitation, which works to create a world where no one is bought, sold or exploited," Judd continued.
That's not the only cause that Judd plans to espouse to further her mother's legacy. She and her country star sister will continue advocacy work surrounding privacy for those who die by suicide and their families, and they'll also advocate for responsible reporting practices surrounding these deaths.
"It is neither ethical nor decent to publish the kind of invasive details about death by suicide that appeared in print and on the internet after [Naomi's] death. All reporting on suicide needs to be medically accurate, evidence-based, cautious about contagions that activate and increase further self-harm ideation in readers and viewers and informed by the guidelines of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention," Judd went on to say.
"I will continue to fight for this, just as my mom fought against her unjust foe, which is why I will be addressing the National Press Club in May, and why my sister and I will be accepting the Lifesaver Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for our commitment to destigmatizing mental illness and more," she continued. "This is an award I would never have wanted to be given, yet one I will accept on my knees, bloody as they are from a year of falling, crawling and getting back up again."
As part of her remembrance, Judd also applauded the opening of a new mental health care facility in Franklin, Tenn. Just days before the one-year-anniversary of the singer's death, Mercy Community Healthcare announced that they're partnering with the Naomi Judd Estate to open the Naomi Judd Mental Health Clinic: A Bridge to Hope.
The new facility will included room and resources for dynamic health care, including counseling/psychiatric rooms, a parent-child interactive therapy room, a prayer area and more, according to its website.
"Mercy focuses on under-served folks and offers sliding-scale payments where necessary," Judd added. "It hurt Mom that people hurt and that they could not access the care she could. This would be a balm for her distressed mind and sweet soul."
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call or text the 24-hour Suicide and Crisis Line at 988. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.