KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The unexpected loss of country music superstar Naomi Judd shines the spotlight on mental health.
Judd, 76, died during the weekend, according to her family, who accepted her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday in her absence. Her notable daughters, Ashley and Wynonna, said they’d lost their mother to mental illness. Experts point to this loss as a reminder that more resources are needed to support seniors.
At Kansas City’s Bishop Sullivan Center, Nathan Crispin helps lead efforts that cater to seniors and families, providing meals, job assistance and, during hot summer months, air conditioners for those who qualify.
Crispin said he often sees seniors addressing quality of life issues, and trouble with depression and anxiety that seem to worsen with age. Crispin said Judd’s public struggle with depression remind him of his own father, who, at age 80, still lives independently.
“I think that’s pretty common where you think about the ones you love that are in a somewhat similar situation and you want to let them know there’s going to be some kind of support structure for them,” Crispin said.
Judd spoke publicly about her fight with mental health challenges, and even wrote a book in hopes to help others. Judd, a native of Ashland, Kentucky, divulged in the book that she’d been tempted to take her own life.
Dr. Jessica Kalendar-Rich, a geriatric care specialist with the University of Kansas Health System, said there’s still a stigma regarding mental health conditions with older people, and it sometimes keeps them from seeking the help they need.
“As we age, the people we grew up with, many of them may pass away. We may start to lose our independence and our function. All of that is really a loss, and that loss contributes to our own mental health,” Kalendar-Rich said.
Senior behavioral experts often advise the public to check in on aging friends and neighbors, and something as nominal as a visit, a phone call or a small gift can change the outlook of their day.