Ashley Judd says mother Naomi died by suicide, believed 'lies' mental illness told her: 'It's savage'

Ashley Judd, Wynonna Judd
(L-R) Larry Strickland, Ashley Judd, and Wynonna Judd speak onstage for Naomi Judd: "A River Of Time" celebration on May 15, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. |

Actress Ashley Judd sat down for a candid interview to discuss how her mother, Naomi Judd, died, revealing it was by a self-inflicted gun wound prompted by her mental illness.

Judd and her older sister, Wynonna, announced their mother died on April 30 "to the disease of mental illness." The country music legend was 76.

Judd recounted the tragic day in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America.” 

“It was a mixed day,” she said. “I visit with my mom and pop every day when I’m home in Tennessee, so I was at the house visiting as I am every day. Mom said to me, ‘Will you stay with me?’ and I said, ‘Of course, I will.’”

She revealed that a friend came over to visit, so she left her mother to greet the friend. When she returned to her mother, she found the Grammy Award winner dead. 

“I have both grief and trauma from discovering her,” Judd said.

The famous family said they wanted to share the cause of Naomi Judd's death on “Good Morning America” to “spread awareness” about 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,” she noted. “It’s very real … it lies. It’s savage.”

Wynonna Judd shared a letter with her sister in support of her interview but revealed she could not get herself to speak of the loss publicly. She thanked “God” that she and her sister have each other during this time.

Naomi Judd was scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame just days after her death. Ashley Judd explained that although it was an immense honor, her mother’s mental illness could not allow her to celebrate the occasion with her peers.

She “couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers,” Judd explained. “That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, 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.” 

Judd concluded her interview by encouraging anyone in crisis or distress to visit The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Judd sisters attended the Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony in honor of their mother, a multi-platinum artist. Just weeks before the tragedy, the family reunited at the CMA Awards for a performance

The country music legend’s memorial, “Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration,” aired as an exclusive on CMT on Sunday. 

During the tribute, Wynonna Judd revealed that she intended to fulfill the fall dates tour dates the family had planned before their tragic loss.

"I've made a decision, and I thought I'd share it on national television that, after a lot of thought, I'm going to have to honor her and do this tour," she said through tears. "The show must go on, as hard as it may be, and we will show up together, and you will carry me as you've carried me for 38 years ... So we will continue this spectacle. That's what she would want, right?"

Ashley Judd has been open about her own battle with depression. She previously told The Christian Post that her morning meditation practice — which includes reading two devotional books and going through the prayer of St. Francis — helps her find healing and comfort.

“One of my favorite prayers is, ‘God, please direct my thoughts and actions and speech,’” she said. “Please give me intuitive thought, a nudge so I know how to handle any situation with grace and kindness.’”

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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