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Friday, February 01, 2008

Britney Needs Privacy, Mental Illness Group Says

Pop singer Britney Spears, hospitalized in Los Angeles, for psychiatric treatment, needs privacy, according to a mental illness group.

"A media circus and reckless speculation has surrounded events in the life of pop singer Britney Spears and her family," says Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). "Professional ethics require that mental health professionals who have not examined or treated individuals not presume to diagnose them. A person's treatment and recovery from any illness also is entitled to privacy -- which in fact may be an important factor in recovery."

Spears was hospitalized this week at UCLA after an escort involving multiple police vehicles, including helicopters. Media scrutiny of Britney Spears has been intense this week, with mainstream media giving her story prominent play. Some journalists have been quoting mental health professionals to get their take on Spears' condition.

Spears' hospitalization follows a year of increasingly erratic behavior in which Spears' two young children were removed from her custody.

"In the case of Britney Spears, professional ethics also are involved which the media must confront," NAMI's Fitzpatrick says. "Roy Peter Clark, vice-president of the Poynter Institute, a leading center of journalism training and ethics, recently wrote. 'There is clearly a danger zone, when life and health are at stake, when the best thing the press can do is back off. That time for Spears is probably now.'"

However, the Spears case does offer a chance to discuss mental illness more broadly and just focus on Britney Spears, Fitzpatrick says.

"NAMI believes it is important that such discussions in our homes, offices,
schools, and stores, as well as in the media, be based on facts," he says. "What is needed--for anyone--is understanding and support. We encourage everyone to focus not on Britney Spears, but on all the ordinary people in our own communities who deserve our attention."

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