Ashley Judd Says Mom Naomi's Cause of Death Was Self-Inflicted Firearm Wound

The actress shared the details of her mom's death during a 'Good Morning America' interview.

Naomi Judd's cause of death has been confirmed. The country music legend died at age 76 from a self-inflicted firearm wound, her daughter Ashley Judd said in a emotional pre-taped interview with Diane Sawyer, which aired on Thursday's episode of Good Morning America.

Ashley opened up about Naomi's battle with mental illness. “She used a weapon…my mother used a firearm,” she said. “So that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we’re in a position that if we don’t say it someone else is going to.”

The actress said her decision to share the heartbreaking news is that she wanted to be the one to confirm it before it would “become public without our control."

Recalling her mother's final day, Ashley explained, "It was a mixed day. I visit with my mom and pop every day when I’m home in Tennessee, so I was at the house visiting as I am every day. Mom said to me, ‘Will you stay with me?’ and I said, ‘Of course I will.’…I went upstairs to let her know that her good friend was there and I discovered her. I have both grief and trauma from discovering her."

Ashley shared that her stepfather, Larry Strickland, was traveling on the day her mom passed, and she was left with making the difficult call to tell him what happened.

"I was in high functioning shock and we all grieve in our own way and I just said, 'Pop, I love you and I am with you ...' and then had to, obviously, say the next piece but that’s how we are as a family, we love each other and we are with each other."

While Ashley said discussing her mother's death is hard for her, she wants to help raise awareness for the reality of mental illness. "When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease," she said. "It’s very real, and it lies, it’s savage."

Ashley hopes that people will remember her mom for the person she was. "Mom was a brilliant conversationalist ... she was a star, she was an underrated songwriter,” Ashley said of Naomi. “And she was someone who suffered from mental illness, you know, and had a lotta trouble getting off the sofa, except to go into town every day to the Cheesecake Factory, where all the staff knew and loved her.”

Speaking about her own experience with mental illness, Ashley told Sawyer: "There is miracle but there is footwork. I am in the footwork department, God is in the results department, and I know that there are things that I have done that have been helpful for me and I am in a different place than my mom was in so I can only speak from my experience."

Ashley added of her relationship with her mom, “I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me, because I knew she was fragile. And every time we hugged and she drank me in, I was very present for those tactile experiences. Because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone, whether it was sooner or whether it was later. Whether it was by the disease or another cause."

The grieving daughter encouraged those suffering from mental illness to seek help. "There is a national suicide hotline and that people who are in distress can call that national suicide hotline," she said. "And that there’s the National Alliance for Mental Illness and they, too, have a hotline. And so I [am] very careful when we talk about this today that for anyone who is having those ideas or those impulses, you know, to talk to someone, to share, to be open, to be vulnerable."

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


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