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Idol Chatter

Several days ago, when I asked if Britney Spears would be “saved” by Oprah, I was being facetious. But, as it turns out, I was being prescient. Over the weekend, Spears’ parents asked Oprah protégé, Dr. Phil McGraw to speak with their troubled daughter at Cedars Sinai Medical Center; apparently without Britney’s knowledge.
As fellow Idol Chatterer Esther Kustanowitz writes, McGraw planned to film a special about the issues surrounding cases such as Ms. Spears’, featuring her parents. But, moments ago, McGraw’s camp issued a press release (as posted on TMZ.com) stating, “We had planned to tape a Dr. Phil Now show today, focusing not on the tabloid side of Britney’s latest problems, but instead on the very serious issues surrounding this case.”
“Clearly, it is not just Britney’s family struggling to find a way to protect adult children who cannot be ordered or compelled to seek help. Because the Spears situation is too intense at this time, and out of consideration to the family, I have made the decision not to move forward with the taping at this particular time.”


Funny how the release doesn’t mention that Britney’s parents pulled out of the interview. According to TMZ, Spears’ father, Jamie, wanted nothing to do with the show in the first place. So, I have a newsflash for those who were considering being on the show: Hollywood created the problem and Hollywood healthcare is not going to solve the problem.
For all the protests from Thomas Nelson Publishers that Lynne Spears’ delayed memoir “will provide a window into the real-life world of fame and worldly success, including the toll it extracts from some who aspire to it,” providing “a much-needed corrective to a world obsessed with the wrong priorities,” this latest step of involving Dr. Phil is giving into the same damning celebrity culture she’s warning others about.
And for all of her exposure to the world through her daughters’ careers and all of the resources available to her, Lynne Spears seems like she is still stuck in with a Middle-American mindset, looking to television–and television’s authority figures–for help. (I’m a Middle American, no hate mail please.)
It seems Mrs. Spears is, true to the past, more loyal to celebrity, as goal and ethos, than to the well-being of her children. And what of Dr. Phil? Clearly he is being an opportunist in this situation. Does Britney need an “intervention?” An involuntary commitment, perhaps, but a 40-minute televised therapy session is beyond laughable.
Dr. Phil has said that he will keep all details of his meeting with Britney private, which is admirable since she is not, technically, his patient, having been called by her family. But, why should we have known of his visit in the first place, why even go on “Entertainment Tonight” and acknowledge that you were there? The girl is probably already embarrassed enough, thanks to the stigma mental disorders carry in this country, without someone flacking her doctor’s visits. No wonder she doesn’t want to voluntarily check herself into a “mental hospital,” as some outlets are reporting.
On the other hand, why would Cedars-Sinai allow Phil in without at least checking with the patient who is already in an emotionally fragile state? They should be held accountable, too.
If Britney really is severely bi-polar, as reports suggest, she needs serious medical attention. Yes, Dr. Phil is a psychologist and his tough-love approach to therapy may work for some. But here is an emotionally stunted young woman whose mental health problems are being splashed upon the headlines of newspapers around the world; would you bring in a celebrity shrink?
I can only hope this drama will not only get us talking about the state of mental health in this country, but also the ethics surrounding the treatment of mental health disorders. Author Ayelet Waldman often writes about her own struggles with mental health on Slate.com and is often lambasted on the boards for being so open. Her work could be called self-indulgent, but she is talking about matters which are often only discussed in hushed tones behind closed doors.
While bi-polar disorder has a genetic component, it surely is the pressure of constantly being in the spotlight that put Britney where she is now and the only way she’s going to get help is to stay out of the spotlight for a while; something that those around her, save her father, seem to be remiss to do themselves and unable to help her to do.

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