JOHNSON CITY, Tenn.—Actress Ashley Judd, the star of more than 20 Hollywood films, including last year’s “Big Stone Gap,” spoke about her troubled childhood and mental health issues Friday at East Tennessee State University.

The 48-year-old actress, who appeared later Friday at a Frontier Health gala, walked in the Martha Street Culp Auditorium and declared, “Hi, y’all. I am Ashley Judd and I am recovering from depression and I have no shame.”

Judd, who now speaks across the country and writes about her experiences, says she was neglected and sexually abused as a child. Those experiences caused depression and thoughts of suicide, she said.

“When the Judds [her mother, Naomi Judd, and sister, Wynonna Judd] signed their contract with RCA, they went on the road,” she said. “And I stayed home. To be more explicit, I got left at home in a little clapboard house in Franklin, Tennessee, and I stayed in that house by myself for an entire year.”

With her family on the road, Judd said her sister’s boyfriend was supposed to look out for her, but she was basically alone.

“I did all kinds of inappropriate things and it’s a miracle that I am alive,” Judd said.

She eventually got in touch with her father and went to live with him in Fayette County, Tennessee. But he only stayed with her for about six weeks, she said.

“I lived alone for an entire year,” she said.

Judd can’t remember some parts of her childhood as she has blocked it out of her mind, she said.

In 2006, the actress went to the Shades of Hope Treatment Center in Texas, where her sister was receiving treatment for an eating disorder. It was family week and the facility’s staff asked her to stay.

“That childhood started to come up when I was in a safe place and I felt like I was paper mache and they were throwing buckets of water on me,” Judd recalled. “I couldn’t do anything about it.”

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She took part in inpatient treatment for 47 days.

“I went into that treatment center and I proceeded to fall apart,” Judd said. “By the grace of God and the tools they gave me, I have been made new, I have been made whole and I have come back together in a way that is a standard-bearer for my entire family.”

Judd said her parents loved and adored her, but her childhood “sucked.”

“No parent says, ‘Hot dog, this is a great day to screw up my kid’s life,’” she said in one of the many moments that laughter erupted in the auditorium.

Judd answered a number of audience questions, including one about how to open up and get the necessary help. The actress said there are many professionals, including locally, who can help. Those suffering from depression must be able to seek help, she added.

University counselors were on hand for those needing assistance.


Twitter: @RSorrellBHC