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My Mom Was Committed Like Britney

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One Mom’s story about how her well-to-do mother got put in a psych ward that looked like a locked-down prison.


Like everyone, I read the stories about Britney and I admit it felt like juicy gossip. But now I feel a pang of recognition that makes me sad. Last summer, my mother was committed to a psychiatric ward for over a month. My own mother, who is a wealthy woman, had friends in high places, and she ended up in a ward that was not fancy.

I kept asking my father: Why can’t she be in the spa-like mental health ward? People are talking about this with Britney too—I don’t know what her situation is, but I can say that people don’t realize how much paperwork there is and how hard it is to get a mentally ill person to advocate for themselves, or even just to sign papers.

My mom is a society lady, and she ended up getting stuck somewhere totally scary.

She began forming relationships with patients who were manic, psychotic, and depressed. She fought with the health care providers and found ways to not take her medicine. She accused the staff of stealing from her and was in constant motion changing clothes and checking her personal items. Sometimes we arrived to find her wearing someone else’s clothes.

She had to give the nurses a list of names of people she would allow to visit her in the ward. Our friends and family, when they came to see her, were shocked. Some later admitted that they had seen some signs of her illness. For years, she had maintained long-lasting friendships and was considered a leader in her community. One day she convinced the doctor to release her, and called my dad to pick her up. She continues to be under the care of a doctor, and we hope that her treatment will keep her out of the hospital.

So my heart goes out to Britney Spears and her family. I know how tough it is to see a loved one suffer.

The writer is a friend of Mom•Logic.

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12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous January 31, 2008, 1:07 PM

You’re brave to talk about it. Thanks for sharing. It’s about time people talk about the real problem with Britney and don’t just exploit her pain.

Anonymous January 31, 2008, 1:23 PM

I don’t understand why the writer is so focused on her mother being somewhere “fancy” or “spa-like”. Her mother needed help - not to be pampered - and obviously she wasn’t getting it in the community, with or without her wealth. If someone is committed to a hospital, she has been considered to be a danger to herself and/or others - at that point, she just needs to be somewhere that she can be monitored; the situation was pretty serious so it is sad to me that the writer is focusing on the ambiance of the facility rather than whether it helped her mother stay safe. And quite frankly, what “spa-like” mental health facility wants to take involuntary patients who are going to fight to get out - that doesn’t really create a spa-like environment for anyone else there, now does it? What a snob!

Sheri January 31, 2008, 1:31 PM

The writer was honest about her feelings. Why would you bash her? Until you’re in her shoes, butt out. It’s convenient that you don’t include your name. At least if you’re going to be perfect, don’t be a coward.

Katelynsmama January 31, 2008, 4:09 PM

Of course the writer wanted her mother in a nice place. I think it’s silly to think any other way. No matter what if your family or friends are in pain you want the best for them. I’ve never been to a mental facility good or bad but I do know I’ve been to a few nursing homes I wouldn’t put my worst enemy in. I think the point about being more upper class was to say to you that her mother had been an accomplished woman and this still happened to her. I’m glad she shared it reminds us how this idle gossip is actually effecting someone’s real life not just there tv life.

elka January 31, 2008, 4:34 PM

my heart aches for her and her family thie photographers and media are also what has sent her over the edge. When one is down we shouldn’t kick them should we? Hopefully she’ll accept the help willingly- I agree a mental ward is really not the ideal place where you’d want a loved one to be however, she is treatable where as some stay there for what seems forever. The fact that both of her parents don’t want her around mr. lufti really raises a red flag. She is in my prayers-God Bless

Krista January 31, 2008, 6:19 PM

To begin it takes a lot of guts to share a story like that and I commend you for it. As a social worker who works in the mental health field I have found that sometimes the best work gets done in places that are not the prettiest. The point is to keep the severely mentally ill safe (and, at times, to keep others safe from them). In public institutions, or those who except public insurance,you will indeed find people who know how to “work the system” (e.g cheeking pills), but do not think for a moment that the “ritzy spa like” hospital patients are any different.
Mental illness is ugly and harmful to those we love regardless of the institution they are treated in. I think our posters real issue is what sounds like horrible conditions in a mental health facility which, unfortunately, also exist, even in this day and age.
As far as Brittany goes, I hope that someone steps in and protects Brittany from herself as well as those who “claim”: to have her best interests at heart. She needs an advocate who has no interest in her success or failure.
It is shameful how she is consistently being exploited in her time of need. If we reported this type of story for every mother who lost custody of their children due to mental illness newspapers would be several hundred pages long…

Joshua  January 31, 2008, 9:50 PM

My heart really goes out to the family of Ms. spears. i remember growing up on her music and it saddens me to see her going through this. My hope for Britney is that she can find a way to come to terms with things. And still have her dignity. I’m probably one of her biggest fans, and when i hear about how the media is twisting things around to make her out to be some crazy person i feel is wrong and should be illegal. Yes people go through hard times, its just unfortunate that she is in the spotlight 24-7 so it just looks bad. But she is human. I don’t know Britney from anything. and if she has mental problems then they should be addressed especially if she is a danger to her kids or herself. but that is her business.
BRIT, I know you can pull through this. and I’m hoping that you do and shut those people who hate on you up. Much love for you. I really want to cry for you for it must be a constant struggle just to live your life. if it were up to me i would let you carry a gun and shot all those stupid camera people. but thats just me. MUAH

Becki February 1, 2008, 6:56 AM

It doesn’t occur to me that the writer was concerned about whether her mom was being “pampered.” I believe the point she was trying to make was that no matter who you think you “are,” or what money or connections you have, when mental illness strikes, anyone could wind up in a place they never thought they’d be.

LM February 1, 2008, 1:42 PM

Hey, guess what?? ALL patients deserve to be treated under decent conditions, regardless of whether they are a “society lady” with “friends in high places,” or “manic, psychotic, and depressed,” or, heaven forbid, POOR!! My sympathies lie with all of them. That said, the second poster is absolutely correct. Mental health facilities are designed for treatment and recovery of mental illness, not for spa treatments. There are very good reasons for the extra security and locked doors that, unfortunately, create a prison-like environment. People who are committed are often a danger to themselves or to others, and it would not be safe for anyone to have them wandering about a spa-like facility. Best wishes to all.

Celebrity Trainer February 2, 2008, 12:05 PM

Let’s just hope poor Britney finally gets the help she needs. Being under such intense media scrutiny and also being the laughing stock of the world wouldn’t be good for anyone’s mental health.

Celeb Trainer

BH February 3, 2008, 2:40 AM

I can relate. I was 16 when my mother’s bipolar showed up. I’d watched her erratic behavior become at times dangerous. My father, being in the military was out on duty. So she leaned on me. It was hard. I was so relieved the day she told me something is wrong, please take me to the hospital. She was committed for 4 months after that.
She still struggles w/ bipolar.
I feel for those that suffer from this and hope in the future, more can be understood to help prevent it. It is devastating to everyone involved.

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