Grammy-winning country musician Naomi Judd struggled with bipolar disorder when she shot herself and died at her Tennessee home earlier this year, according to a report released Friday by the local medical examiner, and a statement from her family added that she was too also related to post-traumatic stress.
Judd and her family had previously spoken in largely general terms about her long battle with depression prior to her death by suicide in late April. But Friday’s report from the medical examiner’s office in Nashville, along with the statement from Judd’s relatives, provided the most complete description yet of the mental illness surrounding her depression.
The 76-year-old former singer had a “significant” history of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, the coroner’s report said, citing information her family had provided. Judd had previously considered suicide and was suffering from “recent life stressors” when she shot herself in the head in the late morning of April 30 in her home.
She was found seriously injured by her daughter, the actor Ashley Judd. “A note with suicidal connotations” and a gun were near Naomi Judd, the report released Friday said.
Emergency services were called to Naomi Judd’s home and took her to a hospital south of Nashville, where she was soon pronounced dead.
A toxicology test performed on blood drawn from Judd’s body revealed traces of prescription drugs used to treat “major depression,” bipolar disorder and PTSD, according to the report signed by assistant medical examiner Emily Dennison of Nashville.
In response to that 13-page document, Judd’s family released a statement saying that she had tried to treat diagnoses of PTSD and bipolar disorder, “with which millions of Americans can identify.”
“We have always openly shared both the joys of being a family and the sadness,” the statement added. “Part of our story is that our matriarch was being chased by a dishonest enemy.”
The main purpose of the report was to officially classify Judd’s manner of death as suicide, although there was no doubt about it. The document also officially listed her cause of death as a gunshot wound near her right temple.
Judd’s family recently filed a lawsuit in the Nashville District Court to block the public release of video or audio interviews of grieving relatives held by authorities immediately after the musician’s death, arguing that it would “consider them” trauma and irreparable damage”. The lawsuit remained unsolved until Friday.
At the time of her death, Judd was preparing for a nationwide arena tour with her other daughter, singer Wynonna. Naomi and Wynonna Judd performed together as the country duo known as the Judds, who had 14 number 1 hits and five Grammy wins in nearly three decades.
The pair sang about family, praising the virtues of marriage and fidelity in hits like Love Can Build a Bridge, Mama He’s Crazy and Why Not Me.
They peaked professionally when doctors diagnosed Naomi with hepatitis in 1991. She stopped performing and her mental state deteriorated significantly, she said in a 2017 interview.
“I went into this deep, dark and absolutely terrifying hole and I couldn’t get out,” she said.
In an autobiographical book called River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope, Judd also wrote, “I spent two years on my couch.”
Before becoming a country music legend, Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky. Working as a nurse when she and Wynonna began singing together, she attracted a devoted following through unique harmonies that blended acoustic music, bluegrass, and blues.
Naomi Judd died a day before she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Her survivors, in addition to her daughters, included her husband Larry Strickland, a backing singer for Elvis Presley.