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Naomi Judd's Death by Suicide: The Fierce Grip of Mental Illness

Naomi Judd's Death by Suicide: The Fierce Grip of Mental Illness


On Saturday, April 30, country music legend Naomi Judd took her own life after battling mental illness for years. She died at the age of 76.

Like many other people, you may wonder, what could be her reason for going the suicide path? What could have troubled such a successful legend? What could have caused her so much sadness and despair? She had wealth, fame, and family, so what could have been missing? And why suicide at 76? The questions are endless.

Or perhaps, you don't know her very well yet.

Naomi Judd was one-half of the country duo The Judds, made up of Naomi Judd and her daughter Wynonna Judd. Together, this mother-daughter duo topped the music charts in the 1980s, with their 1984 debut album Why Not Me racking up multimillion sales. The Judd’s voices were a blessing that appealed to small-town working-class women, making them a renowned addition to the list of impactful female country stars.

However, their joint stardom was briefly cut short when Naomi was diagnosed with Hepatitis B in 1990. Although they gave up performing for the following year, they later collaborated for some one-off shows. They dished out up to 14 #1 singles on the country chart and won 5 Grammys, making them the most successful country duo of their time.

But perhaps, quite probably, all that success and fame couldn't completely override the trauma from her past.


Naomi Judd's Early Life

Naomi was born to Charles and Pauline Judd in Ashland, Kentucky. At the age of three, Naomi was sexually abused by her uncle. She has claimed that this was what triggered her lifelong history of depression.

At 17, Naomi became pregnant (the baby would later become Wynonna) but was abandoned by the child's father. She later went on to marry Michael Ciminella. At 19, she lost her younger brother to Hodgkin’s disease, and her parents split up soon after.

Naomi and Michael later divorced in 1972, and it was all she could do to take care of her daughters alone. Assaulted and raped by her drug-addicted boyfriend, she had to leave Los Angeles for Kentucky to leave the memories behind.

Naomi Judd struggled to cater to her daughters in that small cottage in Kentucky when Wynonna started getting fascinated with singing and the guitar. One thing led to another, and mother and daughter realized they could sing harmoniously together, birthing their rise to stardom.


It Is Hardly Ever Enough

Trauma and mental illness often transcend time and material acquisition. Naomi Judd battled severe depression rooted in her early life even after rising to fame. Sadly, suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of mental illness that the victim just can't control. Interestingly, and sadly enough, Naomi knew this.

Naomi was a longtime advocate for mental wellness, and writing for Mental Health Awareness Week in 2018, she noted the following:

"For everyone mourning the death of someone who committed suicide, an inevitable quest arises: Why did this happen? Unfortunately, we don't have very good answers. We do know that suicidal behavior accompanies many behavioral brain disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression."

As we mourn the loss of a great musician, we can reflect on her words. We do not know why she did it, but we know that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are impulsive, characteristic of these mental disorders.

Perhaps you're currently in that place where she was, or you know someone who does. You may know so much about mental health; you may even offer support to other people. Why, you may have all the riches and fame in the world, but trauma can leave a terrible scar none of these things can heal!

Once held by the dark clutches of trauma and mental illness, what you need is support, someone who can understand and help.

If you're currently battling depression or suicidal thoughts or know someone who does, kindly seek help as fast as you can. Help is waiting for you.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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