Grammy-winning country musician Naomi Judd was struggling with bipolar disorder when she shot herself and died at her home in Tennessee earlier this year, according to a report released on Friday by the local medical examiner, and a statement from her family added that she was dealing with post-traumatic stress, too.
Judd and her family had previously discussed in largely general terms her long battle with depression before her death by suicide at the end of April. But Friday’s report from the Nashville medical examiner’s office, along with the statement from Judd’s relatives, offered the most complete description yet of the mental illnesses surrounding her depression.
The 76-year-old former singer had a “significant” history of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, the medical examiner’s report said, citing information provided by her family. Judd had previously contemplated dying by suicide and was enduring “recent life stressors” when she shot herself in the head at her home during the late morning of 30 April.
She was found badly wounded by her daughter, the actor Ashley Judd. “A note with suicidal connotations” and a gun were near Naomi Judd, the report said.
Emergency responders were called to Naomi Judd’s home and brought her to a hospital south of Nashville, where she was soon pronounced dead.
A toxicology test conducted on blood drawn from Judd’s body revealed traces of prescription medications used to treat “major depression”, bipolar disorder and PTSD, according to the report signed by assistant Nashville medical examiner Emily Dennison.
In response to that 13-page document, Judd’s family released a statement saying that she had been trying to manage diagnoses of PTSD and bipolar disorder, “to which millions of Americans can relate”.
“We have always shared openly both the joys of being family as well as its sorrows, too,” the statement added. “One part of our story is that our matriarch was dogged by an unfair foe.”
The report’s main purpose was to officially classify Judd’s manner of death as a suicide, though that had not been in doubt. The document also officially listed her cause of death as a gunshot wound near her right temple.
Judd’s family had recently filed a lawsuit in Nashville court seeking to block the public release of any video or audio interviews of grieving relatives that authorities conducted immediately after the musician’s death, arguing that it would cause them “significant trauma and irreparable harm”. The case was tentatively scheduled to be heard on 12 September.
At the time of her death, Judd was preparing to embark on a nationwide arena tour with her other daughter, singer Wynonna. Naomi and Wynonna Judd together performed as the country duo known as the Judds, which had 14 No 1 hits and five Grammy wins over nearly three decades.
The pair sang about family and hailed the virtues of marriage and fidelity in hits such as Love Can Build a Bridge, Mama He’s Crazy and Why Not Me.
They were peaking professionally when doctors diagnosed Naomi with hepatitis in 1991. She stopped performing, and her mental state declined significantly, she recounted 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. She worked as a nurse when she and Wynonna began to sing together, attracting 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, besides her daughters, included her husband Larry Strickland, a backing singer for Elvis Presley.