Naomi Judd lived courageously and colorfully as a woman of deep talent, charm, contagious compassion, and love for her fellows. She also lived with mental illness. On April 30, 2022 the disease was strong and foe unfair, and she died by suicide.
Her passing was ruled suicide by the Sheriff's Department. However, because of state law, all the details of the investigation, including body camera footage worn by officers who attended to her body, photographs of her and her surroundings, anguished interviews with Naomi’s husband and daughters, and other private information was accessible to any Tennessee resident, whether they be simply curious, malicious, or salacious. Some news organizations hired local residents to obtain these graphic photos and private details for the sake of “news” and to manufacture rumor-based stories.
The Need: Reporting on the specific details of a suicide, including the graphic depictions of scenes where suicides happened and the content contained in suicide notes, can sensationalize the death, and can lead to contagion amongst those vulnerable to self-harm.
These and other public health threats are documented by suicide experts, such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Additionally, it is profoundly distressing and retraumatizing for those grieving a loved one to have published, on the internet in perpetuity, bloody photographs and body camera footage of the suicided body and place of death, the deeply personal details of their loved one's mental illness (which should be protected by HIPPA and is not in this case), suicide notes, and extensive police interviews with distraught families who were experiencing the most devastating tragedy of their lives. These materials are not necessarily to publish: the suicide has already been declared as such. It is not a criminal case with public obligations.
In Tennessee we have the chance to change the law and help families experience more dignity and respect. But we need your support to begin this conversation. Legislators need to hear from you that all families deserve the decency of privacy.
Sign the Dear Media Pledge: Photos of suicide or the aftermath of a suicide are off limits. They have no compelling or reasonable purpose in media coverage and only sensationalize death and a disease that can serve as contagion. DO NOT PUBLISH PHOTOS, DETAILS, OR SENSATIONALIZE SUICIDE. Follow the Associated Press guidelines. For those who do publish suicide photos or details, we will not engage with those outlets again.