Ashley Judd sat down with Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” for an emotional segment Thursday, during which she revealed that Naomi Judd used a firearm to take her own life, and that she discovered her mother during a routine daily visit to her Tennessee home.
“I would start with, my mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish, and … she was walked home. She was walked home,” Judd said. Judd said her sister Wynonna wasn’t ready to speak publicly, but that her family had “deputized” her to talk about how Naomi Judd took her own life.
“I’m tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live,” she said through tears. “And I’ve tough about this so much because once I say it, it can’t be unsaid. And because I don’t want it to be part of the gossip economy, I will share with you that she used a weapon. Mother used a firearm. So that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but we understand … if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.”
You can watch the entire interview here.
Judd said she visited her mother’s home on the April day she died, just as she did every day when she was in Tennessee.
“It was a mixed day,” she said. “I visit with my mom and pop every day when I’m in Tennessee. … Mom said to me, ‘Will you stay with me?’ and I said ‘Of course I will.’” At some point a “comforting friend” had arrived at the house, and Judd went upstairs to let Naomi know someone was there for her.
“I went upstairs to let her know the friend was there, and I discovered her,” Judd said. “I have both grief and trauma from discovering her. My mother is entitled to her dignity and her privacy. And so there are some things that we would just like to retain as a family.”
Ashley Judd said everyone close to Naomi knew about her struggles with mental health and severe depression, which the singer candidly spoke about when she was alive; she once told an interviewer that her disease did not respond to medication, and that she would go days and weeks at a time just lying in bed.
“I knew she was fragile,” Ashley said. “Every time we hugged, and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences, because I knew there would come a time when she could be gone. Whether it was by the disease or another cause.”
Naomi Judd died in late April, just days before she and daughter Wynonna were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as The Judds. Ashley said Naomi was dearly and openly loved by her peers, but that the severity of her illness was more powerful than any amount of adulation from the outside.
“When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It lies. It’s savage,” Judd said. “Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers. That was the level of catastrophe that was going no inside … the regard they had for her couldn’t penetrate her heart.”
If you or someone you care for needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours a day, at 1-800-273-8255.