Naomi Judd: Hepatitis C, Depression and Anxiety

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Members of the Judd family wrote that famous country music singer, Naomi Judd, died on April 30, 2022 at age 76 from “the disease of mental illness.” She suffered from depression and “hideous panic attacks” throughout her lifetime and finally committed suicide.

With incredible determination, work ethic and talent, Naomi had overcome poverty, the death of her younger brother, sexual abuse, unsuccessful relationships, and a teenage pregnancy. Despite her lack of a formal education, she raised two daughters as a single parent while attending nursing school. Then, while working as a nurse in rural Kentucky, she started singing with her older daughter, Wynonna. Convinced that her daughters were very talented, she had the courage to move with them to Nashville and found work there as a nurse. She obtained a studio audition for herself and Wynonna at RCA and two hours later they were offered a contract. Incredibly, their first album, “Wynonna & Naomi” was a best seller. (Naomi’s younger daughter, Ashley, became a noted actress with more than 40 film and television credits.)

Top Mother-Daughter Duo
Naomi and Wynonna sang together as “The Judds” from 1983 to 1991, sold more than 20 million records and were the biggest-selling country duo, with 20 top-ten singles and 14 top country songs. They won five Grammy Awards including a Grammy for country song of the year which Naomi wrote, “Love Can Build a Bridge.” In 1991, at the height of their careers, the mother-daughter team stopped touring because Naomi suffered from hepatitis C and depression. Wynonna went on to a successful solo career, selling a million copies of her first album “Wynonna,” and following that with a dozen top-ten hits including six Number Ones. At age 53, after recovering from hepatitis C, Naomi returned to the stage with Wynonna for a New Year’s Eve concert in Phoenix and a 30-stop concert tour. Naomi also hosted a television show for two years and appeared in several movies and television shows. Naomi and Wynonna continued to appear together sporadically and a farewell concert tour was planned. The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame the weekend after Naomi’s death.

Hepatitis C, Depression and Anxiety
Naomi Judd wrote a memoir about her struggles with a hepatitis C infection and severe lifelong depression that ran in her family. In River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope (2016), she described how she was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward and had to be treated with drugs and electroshock therapy. She wrote about returning from an extensive singing tour at age 64 in 2010 and isolating herself in her home because of crippling panic attacks. Her doctors called it “severe treatment-resistant depression and anxiety” and she suffered from ineffective treatments and had thoughts of suicide. “When I came off the tour, I went into this deep, dark absolutely terrifying hole and I couldn’t get out,” and “spent two years on my couch, not leaving the house for three weeks, and not getting out of my pajamas, and not practicing normal hygiene. It was really bad.”

She was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1989, at age 43, suffering from headaches, nausea, fever, severe tiredness, muscle aches and weakness. Her doctors said that she contracted it most likely from a needle stick while working as a nurse. One doctor told her that she could expect to have three years to live, so she retired from touring and performing in 1991. In 1995, at age 49, she said that her doctors told her she was completely free of the virus, and in 1999 she returned to performing in concerts, television shows and films.

Hepatitis C is diagnosed by a blood test. Today this infection can be cured with combinations of drugs that kill the virus.  Untreated, the disease can cause a chronic liver and blood infection, permanent liver damage, and liver cancer. Some patients have no symptoms at all, but symptoms can include: yellow eyes and skin, loss of hunger, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, stomach pain, sore muscles or joints, dark urine and pale stools. No vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis C, but the disease can be prevented by:
• practicing safe sex,
• avoiding shared needles, and
• not touching anything that has touched blood from an infected person.

A Message from Naomi Judd’s Death
Sometimes highly successful, honored people suffer from serious mental disease that can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Naomi Judd suffered severe social hardships during her childhood and both of her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley, have openly discussed their problems with depression and anxiety. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, try to get help as soon as you can. This is a time when you need extensive support and treatment.

Naomi Judd
January 11, 1946 – April 30, 2022