Ashley Judd Says an “Undiagnosed” Mental Illness “Stole” Her Mom Naomi Judd

“I carry a message of hope and recovery.”

“I carry a message of hope and recovery.”
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Content warning: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

Actress and advocate Ashley Judd is opening up about her late mother's cause of death and why she is dedicated to continuing to fiercely advocate for more access to mental health services.

On April 23, while speaking on a panel for the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and Federal Action Plan Launch at the White House, Judd shared her family's story of mental illness and ahead of the second anniversary of her mother Naomi Judd's death.

"I'm here because I am my beloved mother's daughter and on the day she died, which will be the two-year anniversary in one week, the disease of mental illness was lying to her and with great terror convinced her that it would never get better," she said, adding that despite her mother's rise to fame as a bonafide country music star, she struggled with the lasting trauma of "childhood and adult male sexual violence."

Naomi Judd and Ashley Judd attend the screening of the film "The Idenitical" on day 11 of the 2014 Nashville Film Festival at Regal Green Hills on April 26, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Naomi Judd and Ashley Judd attend the screening of the film 'The Identical' on day 11 of the 2014 Nashville Film Festival at Regal Green Hills on April 26, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"She also lived most of her life with an untreated and undiagnosed mental illness that lied to her and stole from her and it stole from our family, and she deserved better," she continued.

Naomi Judd died by suicide on April 30, 2022. She was 76. Ashley and her sister, Wynonna, announced her mother's passing via Instagram, writing that they had lost their mom as a result of "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,” the sisters wrote at the time.

Just 24 hours later, Ashley and Wynonna honored their late mother during her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, CNN reported at the time.

“I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew mom would probably talk the most,” Wynonna—who performed alongside her mom as the singing duo The Judds—told the audience. “I’m going to make this fast, because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed."

Inductee Wynonna Judd and Ashley Judd speak onstage for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 01, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Inductee Wynonna Judd and Ashley Judd speak onstage for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 01, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like her daughters, Naomi was candid about her mental health struggles throughout her life and leading up to her untimely death.

In 2016, during an appearance on Good Morning America, the late "Give a Little Love" singer shared her experience with severe depression and anxiety.

"I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas, and not practice normal hygiene,” she said at the time. “It was really bad.”

The late country music star went on to say that she had been labeled "treatment resistant" because doctors “tried me on every single thing they had in their arsenal.”

“It really felt like, if I live through this I want someone to be able to see that they can survive,” she added.

Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd during APLA 6th Commitment to Life Concert Benefit at Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, California, United States.

Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd during APLA 6th Commitment to Life Concert Benefit at Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, California, United States.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the White House panel discussion, Ashley Judd shared that she experienced an "onset of childhood depression" and the "feeling of not wanting to be here" as a result of her own experiences.

She credits her decision to seek treatment in 2006 for her ability to heal.

"I've been in good recovery for 18 years and I've had a different outcome than my mother," she continued. "I carry a message of hope and recovery."

Danielle Campoamor
Weekend Editor

Danielle Campoamor is Marie Claire's weekend editor covering all things news, celebrity, politics, culture, live events, and more. In addition, she is an award-winning freelance writer and former NBC journalist with over a decade of digital media experience covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mortality and mental health, gun violence, climate change, politics, celebrity news, culture, online trends, wellness, gender-based violence and other feminist issues. You can find both her work in The New York Times, Washington Post, New York Magazine, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, TODAY, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Prism, Newsweek and more. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two feral sons. When she is not writing, editing or doom scrolling she enjoys reading, cooking, debating current events and politics, traveling to Seattle to see her dear friends and losing Pokémon battles against her ruthless offspring. You can find her on X, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and all the places.