Why the #FreeBritney campaign by Britney Spears' fans went out of control
Pop icon Britney Spears has finally done it. Weeks after her fans first started campaigning online under the #FreeBritney hashtag, the singer-songwriter took to Instagram to tell her fans that everything is more than just fine with her and that she had, in fact, voluntarily admitted herself into the facility.
In the video Britney posted on her Instagram, she admitted that the #FreeBritney campaign had gone out of control. "There are rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things, crazy things being said."
The pop star reiterated that she is "just trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that's happening is just making it harder for me."
"Don't believe everything you read and hear... My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong and stand up for what I want!"
The 'Toxic' singer pleaded with fans to respect her privacy, particularly, in these trying times. "Your love and dedication are amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful."
You could say fans went a little too berserk in an attempt to "save" the star. The conspiracy theory that did the rounds was that Britney hasn't gone to the mental health facility voluntarily and had instead been forced to stay there. What sparked this further was Britney's Easter day pass, where fans saw her for the first time since her admission. Apparently, she didn't look quite herself — "has she been crying in there???" they asked — which further fueled rumors.
In addition to this, Britney's mother also happened to like some tweets about #FreeBritney. Even stars took to support the online campaign to extradite, in a manner of speaking, Britney from the care.
The origins of the #FreeBritney online campaign are debatable and actually diverted us from the entire conversation around mental health. What's interesting to explore is why this campaign came about in being in the first place.
Fans will tell you that they care and couldn't see the pop star in shackles. But Ronald Manderscheid, Adjunct Professor at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and executive director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, blamed the development of the culture of mental health in the United States. The general perception of community-based health care versus getting mental health care in a facility/hospital is at play here.
"People think that community care is good, but in a hospital or a mental health facility, the care is bad. People generally think that when a person gets mental health care/service in the community, it is acceptable, but when someone opts for an inpatient facility, they are being confined. So many people perceive it unusual that one has chosen to voluntarily join a facility. So when someone joins an inpatient mental health facility, they automatically jump to the conclusion that they are sent there," he explained.
Britney's Instagram clarification wasn't required in the first place had her fans only extended some empathy towards her. "Her fans are not being, in this case, realistic," Ronald shared. He compared the reaction of Britney's fans with that of Lady Gaga's. "There are many people in popular culture, consider another pop icon Lady Gaga. Over the course of last year or so, Lady Gaga has actually come out and said, you know, I suffer from depression," he said, adding that this set an example for millions of people who look up to her. "They got to see her in this humane manner, away from the stardom of being a pop icon — which is the exact hurdle for Britney's fans — they are unable to separate Spear's pop icon image of a star from her human side."
The solution, suggested Ronald, is to adopt a fresh outlook towards mental health care. "One of the principals we need to follow is that people should be given the freedom to choose what kind of mental health care they are comfortable with [without judgment]. So, if Britney wants to choose inpatient care for herself — obviously in consultation with her doctors and her family — more power to her."
He explained that this is what experts call "person-centered care which is the focal point of our discussion here. We need to be addressing the problems of the person and not be discussing/making arguments about their [preferred way of getting] care."