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Ashley Judd says she can ‘understand’ mother Naomi Judd was in ‘pain’ prior to her death

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Ashley Judd opened up about her thoughts on mental health after losing her mother Naomi Judd to suicide.

On Tuesday, the Divergent actress spoke with grief expert David Kessler on his Healing podcast where the two discussed mental health, trauma, and the importance of community and restorative grief support. During their conversation, Judd acknowledged that her mother’s mental illness was a disease and understood that “she was absolutely doing the best she could” at the time of her passing.

“Mom was someone who had a mental illness,” the 54-year-old actress said. “I needed to understand that her mental illness was a disease. I didn’t cause it, I couldn’t control it and I couldn’t cure it. I could contribute through my attitude and my actions. There were ways in which I could be supportive, there were ways in which I could sabotage. And I needed the wisdom of other people with a lot of experience to help guide me.”

Judd also reflected on her childhood, growing up with a mother who had an undiagnosed mental illness, and realises now that her mother’s behaviours were actually an expression of the disease.

"I look back on my childhood and I realise I grew up with a mom who had an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness," Judd said. "And there are different behavioral expressions, interactions, flights of fancy, choices that she made that I understand were an expression of the disease and I understand that and know that she was in pain and can today understand that she was absolutely doing the best she could, and if she could have done it differently, she would have.”

Country music singer Naomi Judd died by suicide on 30 April at 76 years old. Her daughter Ashley announced her mother’s death in a statement on Instagram that day, saying that she and her sister Wynonna had been left “shattered” by the news.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered,” she wrote.

In May, the actor revealed to journalist Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America that her mother sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and urged people to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) if they need help.

Judd shared that her mother’s cause of death was “information that [the family] are very uncomfortable sharing”, but that they wanted to get ahead of the release of information before the autopsy report became public. The actor also took the opportunity to help raise awareness towards mental illness and the availability of resources for those who are struggling with their mental health.

Later on in the podcast, Ashley Judd shared her hopes that her mother Naomi’s death brought a sense of peace for the singer when she passed.

"My most ardent wish for my mother is that when she transitioned, she was hopefully able to let go of any guilt or shame that she carried for any shortcomings she may have had in her parenting of my sister and me,” she said. “Because certainly on my end, all was forgiven long ago, all was forgiven long ago.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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