When Judy Collins was 14 years old, she grabbed a 100-tablet bottle of aspirin and swallowed them all.
"My anxiety and depression crested," she said in a recent phone interview. "Suicide, the attempt to take my life, was the staging area of that sort of breaking of the wave."
She survived, of course, and went on to be one of the celebrated musicians of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, an author, filmmaker and a talent spotter. While she never had a similar compulsion to end her life, in 1992 her only son, Clark, killed himself when he was 33 after struggling with depression and addiction.
Collins will talk about her experiences during the 13th annual ARTcetera fundraiser for the Miller-Dwan Foundation, a fundraiser for Amberwing -- Center for Youth & Family Well-Being. The event starts at 5 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center's Harbor Side Ballroom.
Tickets start at $150 and reservations must be made by Sept. 30.
The event will include a bit of music from the Grammy Award-winner who has released more than 40 albums in five decades.
"I try to include some lighthearted stuff, too," said Collins, 72, who speaks about suicide, depression and addiction a few times a year. "It's a heavy topic."
Collins is best known for her rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," from the Hall of Fame album "Wildflowers." She also won a Grammy for her take on the Broadway tune "Send in the Clowns." The folk musician is linked with other activist artists like Mitchell, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
Still, her life hasn't been all bare feet, guitar strumming and flowers in her hair.
Collins calls her suicide attempt an event that has set the tone for the rest of her life. She is an advocate for approaching mental health as actively as physical health, with therapy treatment and without pills, and creating awareness of links between drug and alcohol addiction and depression. She got sober in the late 1970s.
Her son had been sober seven years when he relapsed and eventually killed himself, leaving behind a wife and daughter.
"When my son took his life, no one wanted to talk about it," Collins said. "No one wanted me to talk about it. I had to confront the taboo just as I would any political, social or religious constraints about speaking out about something."
Collins also stresses the importance of the arts as a way of coping. She got into music when she was very young and said it saved her life as a teenager.
"It was a way I could do something that was disciplined and happy and made other people happy," she said. "That's a nice by-product of the arts."
'Sweet Judy Blue Eyes'
Punk icon Patty Smith provided a Polaroid view of New York City's art scene in the 1970s with her National Book Award-winning memoir and love letter to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe "Just Kids" in 2010.
Collins' memoir "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music" -- which is scheduled for release in mid-October -- might make a nice companion piece with overlapping characters and a similar setting. Collins said she didn't read Smith's book until she finished her own. Her story covers the 1960s and portraits of the players.
"We've danced around some of the same people," Collins said. "It's fascinating. The whole period is fascinating. ... There is a story here of romance as well as social activism, as well as the geniuses of the time. I discovered many of them. I put Joni (Mitchell) and Leonard (Cohen) on the map. I recorded Randy Newman before anyone knew what his address was. It's a wild story to be associated with an era that affected the lives of all of us."
Readers looking for details of her affair with Stephen Stills -- or anyone else -- are in luck. Collins said she decided that after she turned 70, she was putting it all out there.
"We have to appreciate what's happened to us," she said. "I was an idiot. I was drinking and had my own chaotic life. I had many affairs with many men, and a couple of women -- but not a lot."
Publisher's Weekly has called "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes" an "improbable and utterly charming tale."
Collins said she reads the audio version and also includes some songs. She continues to hit the music scene hard, playing up to 100 gigs a year.