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A Beacon of Strength: Ashley Judd’s Fight for Suicide Prevention

April 18, 2024 – 2 min read


Ashley Judd receiving the AFSP lifesaver award

Actor, humanitarian, and author Ashley Judd became an outspoken advocate for suicide prevention after her beloved mother, Naomi Judd, died by suicide in 2022. Ashley remembers her mother as someone “who put salt and pepper shakers beside each place setting for our family suppers and relished talking about subjects as diverse as paleoanthropology and neuroscience.” 

Instead of the full and beautiful life she led, some media coverage focused on invasive and graphic details of Naomi’s death and the family’s final moments with their matriarch. Ashley and her family unwillingly became the center of media attention despite their requests for privacy. Sensitive information about her mother’s death became public record, exacerbating Ashley and her family’s grief and trauma. 

These experiences led Ashley to advocate for privacy protections for those whose loved ones died by suicide. She seeks legal protection for loss survivors so information about their death by suicide is not made public. Ashley urged Tennessee legislators to pass “Naomi's Law,” a law that would prevent medical records, police reports, interviews, and 911 calls relating to a death by suicide from becoming publicly available. By enshrining privacy protections in legislation, she hopes to lessen trauma for loss survivors and allow them to grieve and heal on their own terms.

Naomi’s Law would would also protect vulnerable populations from exposure to graphic details of suicide in media coverage, which suicide prevention research has shown can cause contagion. Similarly, research shows that stories about suicide that include hope and resources can actually help prevent suicide by leading people who are struggling to seek help and feel less alone. 

Ashley has turned her grief into awareness and advocacy for survivors of suicide loss and people who are at risk for suicide and in May 2023, she received the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Survivor of Suicide Lifesaver Award for her efforts. That same month, she addressed the National Press Club to discuss the need for and impact of safe reporting on suicide. Her speech covered using appropriate language and referenced the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Safe Reporting Guidelines for Media, saying that the research-backed ethical reporting suggestions protect loss survivors and reduce the risk of contagion.

Ashley also discussed the importance of only covering certain information when covering death by suicide. She emphasized that media coverage should focus on the solutions rather than the event itself. Additionally, she explained that media coverage should not highlight the details, such as the method of the suicide, but rather the policies that can be changed to build better support systems for those at risk, as well as including help resources for those who are in distress. 

Ashley’s advocacy for suicide prevention reflects not only her courage to utilize her platform to speak about her personal experiences, but also her commitment to fostering a media environment that prioritizes safe reporting and protects those at risk for suicide and suicide loss survivors. Her efforts serve as an inspiration to others to take action to prevent suicide and have open conversations about mental health and suicide.