Warning: This article discusses mental illness and suicide.
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”
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Naomi’s death came just one day before she and Wynonna were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as The Judds. The ceremony continued, per her family’s wishes, and Wynonna and Ashely attended.
Ashley later reflected on the ceremony and her mother’s passing in an emotional social media post:
“Your outpouring is reaching me. Thank you for every thought, prayer, message, text, email, post, expression. We each are alone and we are in fellowship, broken and held, protected from nothing and sustained in everything. It’s the beginning of an old story, life and death, loss and life. Be free, my beautiful mother. Be free.”
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Naomi had been extremely open about her mental health. She went into detail about her struggles in 2016 when she published a book titled River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope.
She also opened up about her struggles in a 2017 essay for NBC News, writing:
“I never dealt with all the stuff that happened to me, so it came out sideways, as depression and anxiety. Depression is partly genetic, and I have it on both sides of my family.”
In another 2017 interview with TODAY, Naomi revealed she had considered suicide in the past.
“That’s how bad it can get,” she said. “It’s hard to describe. You go down in this deep, dark hole of depression and you don’t think that there’s another minute.”
When the Judd sisters said they “lost [their] beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” many people assumed Naomi’s cause and manner of death. There were even articles published with “sources” stating that Naomi died by suicide.
Wanting to take control of the spread of information, Naomi’s daughter Ashely revealed her cause and manner of death in an interview with GMA:
Ashley said she, Wynonna, and Naomi’s husband, Larry Strickland, wanted to reveal this information “before things about the thirtieth of April become public without [their] control. Rather it’s the autopsy or the exact manner of her death…That’s really the impetus for this timing, otherwise it’s obviously way too soon.”
According to Ashley, Naomi died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“Because we don’t want it to be part of the gossip economy, I will share with you that she used a weapon,” Ashley said. “Mother used a firearm. So that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we’re in a position that, you know, if we don’t say it someone else is going to.”
You can watch Ashley’s full interview with GMA here. Our hearts go out to her, Wynonna, Larry, and all who loved Naomi. She will be missed.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text “TALK ” to 741-741, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.