Naomi Judd wearing metallic earrings

This article discusses mental health issues, suicide, and instances of sexual violence and abuse.

Naomi Judd of mother-daughter country music duo, The Judds, was an incredibly talented musician with a tragic past. The late musician was transparent about her ongoing mental health issues and the ups and downs of her journey to happiness. Naomi opened up about her experiences with suicidal depression in an interview with People. "Nobody can understand it unless you’ve been there," the mother of two said in the 2016 interview. "Think of your very worst day of your whole life — someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease — you can take all of those at once and put them together and that’s what depression feels like."

Upon her death in 2022, Naomi’s daughter, Ashley Judd, took to Instagram to share a message regarding her mother’s death and the heartbreak she felt about it. "We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness," she wrote, in part. Naomi’s eldest daughter and former music partner, Wynonna Judd, also honored her mother by attending their Country Music Hall of Fame induction (via Associated Press). Ashley stood beside Wynonna onstage as they recited a tear-jerking speech in remembrance of their superstar parent. As these tragic details about Naomi illustrate, the musician faced numerous hardships throughout her personal life and her career.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Naomi Judd struggled with depression

Naomi Judd smiling

Naomi Judd struggled with her mental health for years prior to her death. In 2016, she even wrote a book on the topic. "River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope" detailed her own experiences with the aim of helping others. On "Today," she said of the memoir, "It’s a survivor’s manual about how to survive depression and anxiety."

During a promotional interview for her book on "Good Morning America," she further detailed the extent of her experiences and how looks can be deceiving with depression. "Because, they see me in rhinestones, with glitter in my hair. That really is who I am," Judd said. "But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas. It was really bad." She went on to reveal that her depression was so severe that it was found to be resistant to treatment.

In another interview with "Today," the "Have Mercy" singer revealed that even electroconvulsive therapy was unsuccessful in treating the condition and that she once considered suicide. Along with her book, Judd found ways to share her journey with others. That included speaking to people across the country about how to live with mental health issues, and to remind the public that mental illness is a disease — not a personal fault.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Wynonna’s father had a history

Wynonna Judd wearing pink lipstick

Naomi Judd was only 18-years-old when she got pregnant with Wynonna after being sexually assaulted just months earlier. The Kentucky native got candid about the harrowing experience during an episode of Candy O’Terry’s "Country Music Success Stories" podcast. "I had been date raped in August the night before my senior year … by a football player in town who heard I was alone." The musician revealed it was the first time she’d ever had sex. When she attempted to contact the man again to tell him she thought she was pregnant, Wynonna’s father was apparently unsupportive. "He said, ‘well, tough luck kiddo,’ and he hung up the phone and we never heard from him."

If this wasn’t disheartening enough, Naomi was also shamed by her community and was even kicked out of school. To support herself and her daughter she got together with a man called Michael Ciminella. As Naomi told the podcast, "I had to marry the town jerk to have a roof and a name." The two later divorced after relocating to Los Angeles.

As for Wynonna, the singer reconnected with her estranged father’s side of the family in 2020. She explained on an episode of "Radio Andy" that she even spoke with her long-lost brother over the phone. However, as she explained in a 2005 interview with Larry King Live (via CNN), the country music star was never able to meet her birth father as he passed away in 2000.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She was in an abusive relationship

Naomi Judd smiling

Naomi Judd also endured traumatic experiences throughout her ’20s. The musician alleged that she was abused by an ex-boyfriend at age 22. Judd detailed the terrifying experience on Candy O’Terry’s "Country Music Success Stories" podcast. The "Give a Little Lover" singer explained that the ex-boyfriend moved into her neighborhood after their breakup and eventually broke into her home. "He tortured me and he beat me real bad and then he raped me," she explained of the harrowing experience. When he passed out after using heroin, she escaped with her daughters and headed to the sheriff’s office.

Upon surviving the attack, the mother of two relocated to a new home in Kentucky. Judd told the podcast that she enrolled in college and began working as a nurse soon after. It seems that Judd was determined to provide for her children despite the challenges she faced as a young mom with no support. Despite Naomi Judd’s financial situation at the time, the mom of two managed to purchase a guitar for her oldest daughter, Wynonna Judd. According to The Guardian, it was at this time that Wynonna’s musical talents were first nurtured, and when Naomi discovered that she and her daughter made beautiful vocal harmonies together.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The Judd family all experienced sexual abuse

Wynonna, Ashley, and Naomi Judd

In her memoir, "River of Time," Naomi Judd revealed she was sexually abused by a family member throughout her childhood (via Radar). She also spoke about the abuse during an interview with "Good Morning America" in 2016. The country music star explained she had no one to turn to for support. As a result, she was forced to mature quickly and at a young age to cope with her experiences. Sadly, Ashley and Wynonna Judd have both spoken about having experienced sexual abuse themselves.

In Ashley’s own memoir, "All That Is Bitter & Sweet" (via ABC News) the actor claimed that she was sexually abused by multiple men during her childhood, including a family member. "My childhood was erratic, chaotic, unstable," she told People during a promotional interview for the book. "I was so the lost child, who just goes away and can be invisible while sitting in the middle of the room." Ashley also shared that she struggled with the pain of repeatedly experiencing sexual abuse over the years.

During an interview on "The View," Wynonna likewise revealed her own history of sexual abuse (via Daily News). "This is such a personal thing," Wynonna said during the interview. "But I think we’re willing to step out on faith and hope that it helps someone else to tell someone because there is a lot of shame and secrecy."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

She was diagnosed with hepatitis C

Naomi Judd posing at event

During her years working as a nurse in the ICU, Naomi Judd contracted hepatitis C, a viral infection that can cause significant liver damage and which spreads via blood or bodily fluids, per Web MD. As noted by the website, the virus can affect people in different ways and can be life-threatening if it becomes chronic. In 1990, doctors informed Judd that she only had three years to live, per Chicago Tribune. Eight years later she told the outlet, "When you are told by medical authorities you have three years on this planet, that you’re going to be taking a six-foot dirt nap and that this is an absolutely incurable terminal illness, the sense of entrapment is so suffocating, so claustrophobic … It felt like there was no way out, like being buried alive."

Thankfully the late musician was one of the few patients who made a full recovery after taking the treatment drug alpha interferon. She had been suffering from the illness for eight years before she was finally diagnosed. "I’ve not only overcome and survived, but I’ve thrived," the late songstress said of her recovery. Living with hepatitis C worsened Judd’s depression and anxiety, but she found relief through prescription medication. In the end, the resilient superstar seemingly walked away from the experience with a new outlook on life. "I think catastrophe holds the potential for growth," Judd told the Chicago Tribune and suggested that it’s important to take something positive from such experiences.