Q&A: Ashley Judd talks about addressing mental health, advocating for others ahead of Elon visit

UPDATE: Fall Convocation with Ashley Judd has been canceled due to severe weather.

UPDATE: Fall Convocation with Ashley Judd has been canceled due to severe weather.


Actress and activist Ashley Judd will deliver a Fall Convocation address as a part of the 2022-23 Elon University Speaker Series on Friday, Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m. in the Schar Center.

Judd has starred in many feature films including “Where the Heart Is,” “Simon Birch” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” and was also named to TIME’s “Person of the Year” list in 2017 as one of the silence-breakers and change-makers who helped shift the culture and conversation around sexual abuse and harassment.

The university Speaker Series has a theme of “Living Well in a Changing World,” and Judd’s remarks will focus on “Mental Health: What we do not transform in ourselves, we will transfer to others.”

In advance of her visit, the Elon University News Bureau reached out to Judd for her thoughts on a variety of issues.

Your talk is titled “Mental Health: What we do not transform in ourselves, we will transfer to others.” What can you share about what you’ll be discussing during your visit to Elon? 

I hope to share about how I experience health and wellness in concentric circles. First, I need to be connected to a power greater than myself, however I understand and define that power. Next, I need to be connected to myself. Finally, I need to be connected to others. The journey is from hurting, to healing, to helping, in that order. We so often mix it up.

What are you hoping people take away from your talk at Elon? 

That self-care isn’t selfish, it is self-esteem. It is okay to take care of ourselves because we cannot transmit what we do not have. We need to learn to give to others and society from our abundance, not from depletion and exhaustion. And another person’s disease or dysfunction: the three C’s – We didn’t cause it. We cannot control it. We cannot cure it. However, we can contribute by focusing on ourselves and changing our own attitudes.

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with mental health challenges? How can they ask for help and how can those around them support them? 

It is okay to struggle. I have been there, too. Reaching out for help is actually an indication of wellness and strength, a spark of resilience. Check out the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website and explore a 12-step program for support. Learn about grief.

For those who are supporting someone, the suggestions are the same — find your own support so you know how to support rather than enable.

You are an outspoken advocate who is passionate about a number of issues. What does it mean to you to use your platform to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves on issues of mental illness, poverty, gender inequality and social justice?

It means so much to my soul to be connected to my fellows, to be entrusted with sacred stories and truths, and to share them across communities. My sense of belonging and purpose fill my cup.

How has your work in the entertainment industry prepared you to be a stronger advocate for others? 

Seeing my female peers earn far less money than men, be underrepresented on screen, having less dialogue or having that dialogue be generally about men and relationships, hearing male dialogue be crude and objectifying about women, and seeing women so marginalized and scant on crews on set, and the power differential between men and women at studios and agencies taught me bravery is necessary everywhere.