Country music icon Naomi Judd, 76, tragically loses battle with mental illness she wrote about in memoir

Country music icon and beloved mother of country superstar Wynona and actress Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd, has tragically lost her battle with depression — a struggle the singer detailed in her 2016 memoir, “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope.”

Judd, 76, passed away Saturday afternoon, just one day before she and daughter Wynona were to be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame and just after a fall arena tour — the first for the duo in more than a decade — was announced to eager fans.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy,”  said Wynona and Ashley in a joint statement provided to The Associated Press. “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. ”

“We are shattered,” the statement continued. “We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”

In a dedication to her book, Naomi Judd wrote that “even in the darkest days” of her war with depression, “I was never blinded to the compassion from my beloveds who continually reached down with loving hands and lifted me out of my harrowing nightmare of despair,” Fox News reports.

“Because of you,” Judd wrote, “I can tell my story.”


Judd wrote that she knew she “certainly wasn’t alone in her despair,” noting that millions of Americans “suffer from one of the forms of depression… and two-thirds of us wait too long to seek help.”

Judd recalled that, “just when we [The Judds] were cresting the top of the show business world, in 1990, doctors told me that I had only three years to live.”

The former nurse learned that she had contracted hepatitis C, “before The Judds took off.”

Before conquering the disease in 1995, said Judd, “all I could do was fight to survive.”

By 2010, said Judd, her life was filled with “interesting people, different scenery, new things to learn, and exhilarating events.”

But the joy was, said Judd, short-lived.

“I had plenty of reasons to jump out of bed every morning,” Judd wrote. “Never did I expect that only months after the Encore tour [in 2010] ended, I would feel I had every reason to jump off a bridge to end my tortured existence.”

“I learned the hard way,” Judd wrote, “that mental health issues cover a wide scope of disorders and can be hard to diagnose.”


Depression, Judd learned, was a multi-generational struggle within her family — one that, sadly, came with consequences.

“I was unaware that I had post-traumatic stress disorder from pathological situations and issues passed down through generations along with the traumatic events of my own life,” she wrote.

The depression, Judd told Fox News Radio in early 2018, was terrifying.

“I was terrified … I didn’t get off the couch for about two years,” she said.

Finally, she realized she had “a very serious problem.”

Half of the duo who scored 14 No. 1 singles over nearly three decades, the Grammy-award-winning Naomi Judd died near Nashville, Tennessee.

In a statement on behalf of Judd’s husband, fellow singer Larry Strickland, the grieving family said no further details of her death would be released and asked for privacy.

On social media, condolences and fond memories of Naomi Judd are pouring in.

“Oh Sweet Jesus… Naomi Judd has gone home…” tweeted The Oak Ridge Boys, adding, “We are saddened beyond words…”

“This is heartbreaking news!” said Travis Tritt. “Naomi Judd was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. I had the honor of working with her in movies and numerous musical events. My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to her family.”

“My heart is sinking over the loss today of Naomi Judd at 76,” said Country Music Television host Cody Alan. “She was a talented lady, and one of a kind, making The Judds iconic in every sense of the word. This picture was taken just a few weeks ago.”


According to Country Music Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young, plans to induct The Judds in Sunday’s ceremony will go forward.

“Naomi overcame incredible adversity on her way to a significant place in music history. Her triumphant life story overshadows today’s tragic news,” Young said in a statement. “Her family has asked that we continue with The Judds’ official Hall of Fame induction on Sunday.”

“We will do so, with heavy hearts and weighted minds,” Young continued. “Naomi and daughter Wynonna’s music will endure.”


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