Last week I had the opportunity to hear Ashley Judd speak at the National Press Luncheon in Washington DC, about the horrors she endured in the hours after her mothers death by suicide. The moment you lose someone to suicide, it is said that the EFFECT that it has on your body, is likened to if your body was in an AIRPLANE CRASH. But she wasn’t there to talk about those horrors, she was there to discuss the trauma she had to experience AFTER the moments she found her mother. 

She walked us through both the painful lack of education around the first responders to the scene, as well as the horrific violation of privacy of her family because of the laws in her state. She spoke in detail about the laws in TN and what is released to the public, as well as the tactless choices by the media to print such painful details, obviously causing even more harm than this family had already endured. 

I sat feet from Ms. Judd, with tears in my eyes and I watched her speak from such guttural depths of pain, to a group of strangers. Thinking to myself, when my brother died by suicide, I could not IMAGINE having to also have to endure this additional level of trauma. I found myself nodding profusely as she drove her points home, like darts, never missing a beat, even at the moments her voice trembled as she took us on a journey of just who her mother Naomi was to everyone that loved her. 

Larry Strickland, Ashley Judd and her sister Wynonna Judd

And then my eyes drifted over to her “Pop” as she spoke about her mother…Naomi’s husband of 33 years Larry Strickland. As someone who had a child in Kentucky, where the Judd’s hailed from, we also use “Pop” and so he immediately touched my heart. His eyes showed so much concern and protection for Ashley, as he tenderly walked her to her seat. Then watching him tend to his own grief as he listened to the horrible parts of Ashley’s story. This family had my entire heart – their pain was visceral, it has only been ONE YEAR and there were still journalists in this audience, challenging her points, as well as trying to get her to make statements and share her views on the writer strike and gun reform. 

It felt gross. And Ashley with so much grace, class and TONS more patience than me – reminded them what she was there to speak about and stood so fiercely strong. 

What is our societal need to be trauma tourists? Maybe that question isn’t for “US” as a collective, maybe it starts with ourselves. 

At one point the moderator, who was part of the National Press Association asked basically if a celebrity dies by suicide, how are we supposed to report it without those details? What are we supposed to say? Where’s the line? I found myself BITING my tongue to not stand up and scream! 

If someone dies by suicide. That is how they died. Period. That is what you report. They died by suicide. The rest is no one’s business but the family and only causes further trauma to everyone involved. The fact that these details are made public and the press even HAS access to them in some states, IS HORRIFIC.

Ashley is taking her pain, and using it as fuel to pass Naomi’s Law in her home state of Tennessee. She talked about how she is meeting opposition from lobbyists and would love support from the journalists to use their hearts and integrity when writing about suicide. To consider the IMPACT their words have to others that could be struggling. Thankfully members of AFSP National were present to provide great resources, wording and education at moments during Ashley’s talk. 

Please follow the link to read more about Naomi’s Law. For additional Suicide Prevention resources page you can visit the EDUCATE page on this website.