An open book. Naomi Judd was vocal about her battle with mental illness and depression before her April 2022 death at the age of 76.
“[Fans] see me in rhinestones, you know, with glitter in my hair, that really is who I am,” the musician told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts in December 2016. “But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas, and not practice normal hygiene. It was really bad.”
The former Judds member — who detailed her depression issues in her 2016 River of Time memoir — told The Palm Beach Post that during her lowest times, she grappled with the idea of taking her own life.
“I know what it’s like to go down to the bridge and be ready to jump off,” she told the outlet in 2016, noting that she was fighting to come out on top. “It’s going through it that’s exquisitely harrowing. You have to have somebody to watch you, somebody to make sure you are on the right meds. My husband [Larry Strickland] hasn’t let me out of his sight in two-and-a-half years.”
Naomi sang alongside her eldest daughter, Wynonna Judd, for nearly a decade before stepping back from music in 1991 to deal with her Hepatitis C diagnosis. The duo later reunited for multiple shows and another record, but in 2010, Naomi began battling severe depression.
“I’m trying to start a national conversation about depression and anxiety,” she told Today’s Savannah Guthrie while promoting her book in December 2017. “There are 43 million of us out there. I want to let the world know that it’s not a character flaw. It’s a disease.”
The “Girls Night Out” musician added: “We don’t make enough of the good neurochemicals in the brain. It’s a disease. It has nothing to do with our character.”
Naomi noted that her public persona could no longer mask what was going on inside her head, which is when she began seeking treatment.
“I used [to] say to myself, looking in the mirror, ‘I’m Naomi freaking Judd. I got this.’ I even wrote it out and taped it there,” she wrote in a December 2017 essay for NBC News. “But when the problem is your brain, when the problem involves the way that you’re thinking and the way you’re living every day of your life, you can’t pull that off anymore.”
Her family, which also includes daughter Ashley Judd, eventually stepped in to get her help.
“Ashley is so grounded, so she was more administrative. She was on the phone booking flights, telling me, ‘OK, Mom. This is what we’re going to do now.’ Wy is more emotional: She would come over and get in bed with me, and just hug me, and hold on to me,” Naomi recalled. “And Larry is so constant; he was always there for me. If I was somewhere in treatment, he would get the closest motel, and be there with me every visiting hour.”
The “Love Can Build a Bridge” singer appeared to be in better spirits in early 2022 when she and Wynonna, 57, performed at the CMT Music Awards that April, marking their last duet together. However, later that month her daughters confirmed her death on April 30.
Scroll down to see Naomi’s most poignant quotes about mental health through the years: