Britney Spears, Conservatorship, and Mental Health |

Britney Spears Conservatorship
Photo: Stephen Lavoie

On June 23, Britney delivered an impassioned testimony to a judge in a bid to dissolve the conservatorship that has governed her life for 13 years by her father, calling it an “abusive” arrangement that has denied her basic rights, like not being able to make her own decisions regarding her health and relationships. Despite her pleas, the judge has denied her request to remove her father from the conservatorship.

Jamie Spears asked the court overseeing her conservatorship to investigate her statements to the judge, stating that he’s had no power over his daughter’s affairs for nearly two years, since a court-appointed professional, Jodi Montgomery, has had power over Britney’s personal decisions since 2019. Jamie now oversees only her money and business dealings.

The #FreeBritney movement started by her fans has been around for a while now, but instead of just looking at it from a perspective of a father taking over control of her adult celebrity daughter’s life, the conservatorship is an example of why so many people are still scared to be honest about their mental health situation.

Britney’s rise and fall

Britney Spears was once a pop star as big as Tay Tay or Ariana in the early 2000s, when she was called the “Princess of Pop”. Forbes has reported Spears as the highest-paid female musician of 2002 and 2012, but things really went downhill for the pop icon between those years, and got really bad from 2008 when she was subjected to modern slavery of sorts – by her own father via a conservatorship.

Here’s a rundown of the crazy issues surrounding the conservatorship she’s alleged:

She’s not allowed to get pregnant: Britney can’t get married or have a baby – her IUD birth control cannot be removed – unless she gets her dad’s approval. She can’t even see her friends or have her boyfriend drive her.

She’s taking medication against her will: Britney alleged that doctors changed her medication to lithium, a mood stabiliser.

She was forced to perform against her will: She said that her management threatened to sue her in 2018 if she didn’t do her concerts. Her “Piece of Me” tour grossed $54.3 million.

To top it off, Britney has to pay her father $16,000 each month, as well as commissions from the gross ticket and merchandise sales she makes. As if that’s not weird enough, she also has to pay for both their own attorneys. Britney said the conservatorship “made no sense” since it deemed her able to perform at the highest level of the entertainment industry, but she was unable to make basic life decisions or spend the money she is earning.

How did she get here?

In 2008, her father, James Spears, petitioned the court for a temporary conservatorship as Britney was in the throes of a major mental health crisis as a result of overwhelming media attention (she put her infant son on her lap while driving), rumors of substance abuse (she checked into several rehab facilities), and a custody battle for her two sons (due to her suspected substance abuse).

But what truly garnered major attention was in 2007 when she shaved her head with electric clippers at a hairdresser, right in front of a group of snap-happy paparazzi. She was in the midst of a downward spiral into depression.

The strict conservatorship – with Britney fully under the custody her father – controlled not only her person but also her financial estate and was initially only supposed to last until the end of 2009. But whether the conservatorship has extended this far is due to her own mental state or her father’s will is anyone’s guess. Imagine if we were all judged forever on our worst week or even a year, over a decade ago. Just because there was a moment in her life when she couldn’t take care of her own affairs, does it mean that it should define her whole life?

Her father, lawyer, and Montgomery were supposed to make meaningful progress in Britney’s wellbeing so that her conservatorship can be terminated. Even though it was supposed to end in 2009, it’s still in effect, and multiple parties are profiting off it (to the tune of millions) – except Britney herself, who ironically is actually paying for the entire conservatorship. So is this conservatorship really supposed to help Britney gain control of her own life, or is it actually a ruse concocted by multiple parties to profit off her mental health?

What it does tell us is the idea that mental illness gives away your right to be a full person. There are people – especially those who discount the severity of the effects of mental illness, or those who don’t “believe” in mental illness – who say that “celebrities talk too much about mental illness” but in reality, here’s an actual celebrity being controlled and stripped of their human rights via the guise of mental illness.

“It’s my wish and my dream for all of this to end,” Britney said of the conservatorship.