Naomi Judd championed mental health. Here’s how you can find help and be an advocate.


If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741. More mental health resources are also listed at the bottom of this story.

The death of country artist Naomi Judd has sent shockwaves nationwide as her family, friends and others express grief over the loss. The 76-year-old died Saturday, according to an announcement by her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the sisters said in a statement. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”

‘MY HEART IS BROKEN’: Wynonna Judd speaks about mother Naomi’s passing at Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Naomi Judd

Naomi Judd

Naomi Judd spoke openly about her own mental health over the years, encouraging others not to struggle alone and penning a book about her journey.

She reflects on her traumatic childhood in the book “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope.” It details the abuse, neglect and trauma she endured and dark family secrets she kept — all of which caught up with her years later, she said.

“Only by telling our stories will more people understand,” Naomi Judd said in an December 2016 Instagram post about the book. “Only by telling the truth will we stop the stigma. I’ve told my story. And now you can tell yours. You are not alone. I’m still here.”

Advocates fight stigma around mental health

Tens of millions of people suffer from mental illness, according to data from the National Institute for Mental Health. It’s estimated only half of them receive treatment. That can be driven by a variety of factors, including stigma, limited mental health care access and a lack of awareness about mental illness.

However, psychiatrist Dr. Nathaniel Clark said there is now an unprecedented demand for mental health care nationwide. That may be partly due to the pandemic disrupting care or spurring mental health issues.

“It also … could reflect a change in cultural awareness about mental health issues and how important they are,” said Clark, who is the chief of staff at Vanderbilt Behavioral Health. “For many years, people have talked about how there is no health without mental health. I think that is finally starting to bear some fruit and that people are much more open to engage.”

Mental health issues play out differently as people age. For example, behavior disorders are more common among younger children, while ADHD, anxiety and depression are more common with increased age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death for people age 10-34, according to the NIMH.

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Experts say elderly adults can be prone to depression as they endure medical issues, loss of friends and loved ones, and waning independence. Studies suggest lower levels of folates in the blood may also contribute to depression in older adults, along with conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Older adults may also be resistant to talking about mental health or seeking care.

Regardless of age, Clark said taking a gentle, informed approach is important when talking to someone about mental health. He also said the growing body of research and understanding around mental health is a powerful tool.

“The more we know about mental health and psychiatry and the more we talk about it … really helps to reduce stigma,” he said.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Amy Alexander said it’s also important to remember that mental health is important for people regardless of age, race, gender, socioeconomic status and other factors. Mental health is not just about people with disorders or problems, but a wider picture of how we relate to ourselves and others.

“Mental health is not about being broken,” said Alexander, who is also the director for the Refuge Center for Counseling in Franklin, Tennessee. “Mental health is our relationship to our own inner voice. This is not a niche issue. It’s not just something that applies to some people. This is a topic that is applicable to 100% of humans.”

Resources for mental health in Tennessee

There is a variety of resources for those seeking mental health support at the national, state and local level. Here are just a few.

  • The CDC offers a wide variety of mental health resources at cdc.gov/mentalhealth, including a mental health quiz and a tool to find a therapist.

  • The state of Tennessee also has a hub for behavioral and mental health resources at tn.gov/behavioral-health.

  • The Behavioral Health Safety Net for Adults provides free, essential outpatient mental health services to Tennesseans who lack insurance coverage. More information is available at tn.gov/bhsn or at 800-560-5767.

  • Tennessee offers a free crisis hot line that is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis. All calls are directed to a trained counselor in the caller’s area. Call or text 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).

  • The Tennessee REDLINE is a free 24-hour resource for substance abuse treatment referrals. Anyone can call or text 800-889-9789 for confidential referrals.

  • The Vanderbilt Psychiatric Assessment Service can be reached 24/7 at 615-327-7000. More information is also available at vanderbiltbehavioralhealth.com.

  • Learn more about The Refuge Center at refugecenter.org.

Find reporter Rachel Wegner at [email protected] or on Twitter @rachelannwegner.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Naomi Judd championed mental health; how to find help, be an advocate





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