Star Trek’s Poor Depiction of Mental Illness in a Hopeful Future

The medical advances depicted in Star Trek are nothing less than extraordinary, but solutions have not been found to maladies that millions in our world are struggling with: mental illness. This article examines the few instances where characters are depicted as struggling with mental illnesses, and sadly concludes that Star Trek’s writers completely failed to present us with a future where such illnesses have been eliminated, nor one where mental illness does not carry the stigma it carries today. This is a two-part article, with the second describing my own struggle with mental illness and how I use Star Trek to help. 

Star Trek Solves Many Maladies, But Not Mental Illness
By the 24th century, Star Trek depicts a universe where most medical maladies have been solved. Everything from bacterial infections to major viruses have been controlled or eliminated. As Dr. McCoy humorously demonstrated in Star Trek IV, even renal failure can be reversed with a simple pill that will heal even the most damaged of kidneys.

Skin wounds, from the smallest of scrapes to the worst burns, can be healed within a few moments by a dermal regenerator. Even paralyzed individuals, such as Worf in “Ethics,” can receive a new spine and escape a potential life-long disability. Blind individuals can even regain some of their eyesight, Geordi La Forge serving as a fine example. Individuals with less-than-perfect eyesight can have it remedied through the use of Retinax V (assuming one is not allergic).

However, Star Trek depicts a future where not all of our illnesses can be remedied. They are not all as readily apparent as a separated shoulder or chronic disease. Some are impossible for others to see, yet many suffer with them on a daily basis. When David Gerrold and David Goodman conceived of a character who served as an “emotional healer” aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Deanna Troi was born. However, the show’s writers focused more on her empathic abilities and her role as Captain Picard’s emotional consciousness, rather than her duties on the ship as a therapist.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s final season showed us another, Ensign Ezri Dax. The dilemma for the writers with Ezri, who entered the show in its final season after Terry Farrell left the show, was that they had to deal with her joining with a symbiont and the crew, which left little time to flesh out her function aboard DS9: that of a counselor.

Star Trek Continues introduced a ship’s counselor onboard the Enterprise in the 23rd century in the character of Lieutenant Elise McKennah. While not canon, the writers of Continues have introduced the first character in Starfleet who, in “The White Iris,” provides therapy that is instrumental to Kirk overcoming his guilt over his past loves who have died.

The presence of these characters in Star Trek demonstrates that mental illnesses have yet to be conquered in the future we all wish would come sooner. Starfleet doctors do not even seem have medication to prescribe to patients suffering from mental illnesses. Indeed, one character struggling with social anxiety, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, was ridiculed by fellow crewmates, no matter how talented he was. Mental illness currently has a stigma attached to it, and it is unfortunate that stigma still exists in the 24th century.

Mental Illness in the 21st Century
Depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other forms of mental illness are said to affect at least 20% of populations in the developed world. In the United States alone, an estimated 44 million of the country’s population of roughly 325 million suffered from some form of mental illness, according to The Economist.

Yet, despite the advancements that have been made in medicinal and therapeutic treatment of mental illness, there remains a stigma attached to the diseases that so many of us, including this author, suffer from. Many of our peers, whether they be family, friends, or co-workers, do not understand what those with mental illness battle on a daily basis. While they would fully understand if we suffered from a physical illness or disease, such as cancer, mental illness is something that many still do not recognize.

As a result of the stigma and general lack of understanding inherent to mental illness, many people who suffer with it end up hiding it from others for fear of being unfairly judged. As I have battled anxiety and depression for more than 15 years, I have often attempted to hide my symptoms from friends and co-workers. If one comes down with the flu or a stomach virus and has to miss a social activity or day of work, everyone seems to understand.

However, because of the stigma associated with mental illness, canceling plans or calling in sick because of a flare-up of one’s symptoms does not feel like a viable reason for staying home. Sufferers can often worry whether our peers are judging us, and perhaps thinking that our reason for missing out on plans or work is somehow less valid. Personally, I have had friends and co-workers question my ability to battle my depression and anxiety if I have to cancel on plans or take a day off. My father even questioned why I needed to see a therapist on a weekly basis, as he had no understanding of mental illness.

Breaking the Stigma
Just as Star Trek raised awareness of the role of women and minorities in the workplace and society in general, we need to raise society’s understanding of mental illness. Much of the stigma about mental illness is a result of ignorance.

While TNG and DS9 put counselors aboard starships and space stations, they seemingly did little to destigmatize mental illness or help their patients. Star Trek provides us with two cases of mental illness: Barclay’s social anxiety and Nog’s post-traumatic stress after losing his leg at the Siege of AR-558.

Reginald Barclay


TNG Supervising/Consulting Producer Bob Justman once said “you can’t turn out a Picasso every week,” and season three’s “Hollow Pursuits” is an example of exactly that.

In the episode, Barclay is depicted as an engineer wrought with nervousness and a lack of confidence. According to Gene Roddenberry, the character of Barclay was created to “[take] a character who is just like the rest of the human race and put him on the bridge.” Due to the fact that he was constantly nervous and on-edge, his work suffered and he drew the ire of his crew mates. Many members of the crew referred to him as “Lieutenant Broccoli,” and Commanders Riker and La Forge sought to have him transferred off the ship after he was the first member of the Enterprise crew to receive an unsatisfactory performance rating.

It was immensely disappointing to see two members of our crew, one of whom was disabled, ridicule and seek to pass an individual suffering from mental illness off to another ship. Thankfully, Captain Picard refused to simply transfer him away and La Forge, who did so at Picard’s behest and with Guinan’s wisdom, encouraged Barclay, which led to an increase in Reg’s confidence and performance and a burgeoning friendship.

Unfortunately, the individual best-suited to assist Barclay with his troubles, Counselor Troi, played a minimal role in destigmatizing Reg’s mental illness to the crew or helping him. Barclay’s means for dealing with his mental illness is the holodeck. This is partly due to Reg’s inability to deal with the real Counselor Troi, whom he was attracted to.

Part of the problem was that the writers did not know how to use Troi properly. Roddenberry had initially envisioned her as the brain of the show. Someone with the intelligence of Spock. The writers, such as Brannon Braga and Naren Shankar, could not understand why a therapist was aboard the Enterprise, especially, according to Braga, when “[the characters] had gone beyond human foibles and no longer succumbed to jealousy or anger.”

After Reg’s use of the holodeck, and in particular the images of Enterprise crew members, was discovered, his illness became holo-addiction. Rather than address the underlying reasons as to why Barclay felt more comfortable in the holodeck than in the real world, he was forced to delete his programs after helping Geordi discover that the Enterprise’s malfunctioning systems were a result of a harmful substance being released onboard.


After he appeared in additional episodes of TNG and made a brief cameo in First Contact, Barclay would also become known for his role on Voyager as part of the Pathfinder Project working to get the lost ship home. In “Pathfinder,” Reg, who was then able to function in the real world much more easily, created a holo-program of Voyager and its crew to build a rapport and refine his ideas for getting them home. When his simulation was discovered, Admiral Paris suspended Reg pending a psychological evaluation and suggested that he had suffered a relapse of his holo-addiction. Despite this, Reg violated orders, and his idea ended up establishing contact with Voyager, where he was praised and viewed as an honorary member of the crew.

While not shown on-screen, it is apparent that Barclay visited Counselor Troi for therapy aboard the Enterprise D. Reg even turned to Troi to discuss his feelings about his new assignment to Starfleet’s Communications Research Center in a VOY episode.

While Reg’s own work with Troi can likely be credited for his anxiety subsiding, the fact that his behavior and symptoms were chalked up to holo-addiction is deeply troubling. Although the concept of holo-addiction is an interesting subject to explore in a future where we can escape from life’s problems thanks to technology, the holodeck was a coping mechanism for Reg, rather than the cause of his symptoms.



Nog underwent an extraordinary character arc over the course of DS9, going from mischievous teenager to the first Ferengi in Starfleet. The character’s finest moment came following “The Siege of AR-558” when Nog lost his leg in the fighting, and struggled emotionally with post-traumatic stress as well as physically trying to adapt to his biosynthetic leg. Like many individuals who suffer from mental illness, Nog refused help from anyone. The culmination of this arc came in the season seven episode “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” which was an episode devoted to Nog’s struggles.


After returning to the station following months of rehabilitation at a starbase, Nog refused to attend a welcome home party the crew was putting on for him. Nog was on medical leave from Starfleet, but he was suffering from phantom limb syndrome. While tricorder scans showed that the nerves in his brain were not trying to communicate with his amputated leg, Nog refused to believe it, using a cane to walk around and complaining about the pain. Further, while the doctors believed that Nog’s pain was psychological, he refused to see Ezri Dax, the counselor on the station. Like Dr. Crusher and Barclay, Dr. Bashir unfortunately goes missing, adding more weight to the idea that medicines to treat mental illness do not exist in the 24th century.

Nog’s only solace came by listening to Vic Fontaine’s rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which annoys Jake Sisko and forced Nog to sequester himself in a holosuite running Vic’s program. Beyond Nog’s phantom limb syndrome, he experienced flashbacks to the death of friends on AR-558 and losing his leg, both hallmark symptoms of PTSD. When the crew met to discuss Nog living in a holosuite, Ezri gave it her blessing, pointing out that it could be a good thing as Nog’s therapy was not progressing. When Ezri visited Vic in the holosuite to evaluate the situation, the hologram assured her that he had a few tricks up his sleeve to help Nog. The writers deserve credit in this instance. Even today, individuals suffering from mental illness can be reluctant to seek treatment. It sometimes takes those closest to us, like Vic in this episode, to give us the nudge we need.


Trouble shortly ensued when Jake visited his friend with a girl he was seeing and played up Nog’s heroism, which irritated Nog and caused him to lash out by punching Jake. When Ezri paid him another visit, Nog threatened to resign from Starfleet if he was forced to leave the holosuite. Vic took the drastic step of shutting down his program and refusing to reinitialize it, despite Nog’s attempts. This was effective in getting Nog to realize what he was missing in the real world, and Nog confided in Vic that he was holding back from talking in his therapy sessions.

Nog told Vic that when the war began, although he was not happy about it, he was eager for the chance to prove himself to be a good officer and solider. Although he saw a lot of combat and witnessed many people being wounded or killed, Nog thought he was going to be okay. Then he got injured at AR-558 and was suffering from an overwhelming fear of his own mortality caused by the loss of his leg. It was this, apparently, that he could not tell the counselors. After realizing this, Nog ditched his cane, left the holosuite, and returned to limited duty.

Star Trek Failed in Its Depiction of Mental Illness
In these two examples, it is troubling how ineffective Starfleet counselors are. Despite the fact that therapy and psychiatric medication were prolific during the writing of both TNG and DS9, a future was depicted where both appeared to be either unused or ineffective in helping our characters. It is also shocking that, in the instance of Barclay, his use of the holodeck is labeled as holo-addiction, whereas with Nog it is viewed as a therapeutic tool. In a universe that broke down barriers for so many, it is staggering to find that Star Trek does not paint a hopeful future for those suffering from mental illness. TOS inspired millions of minorities into believing they were equal and should not be held back from education and positions of responsibility for the facts of their birth they could not change, but there is no equivalent for those of us suffering from mental illnesses, a fact of birth we also can not change, and no future where our problems have been cured and are simply a thing of the past. Star Trek inspires us to dream and ponder possibilities, and it is unfortunate that viewers coping with mental illness do not have a future free of such maladies to look forward to and strive for.

Should Star Trek: Discovery happen to portray a character with mental illness, I hope the new series will treat it with the compassion and understanding that previous Star Treks lacked.

Read Part Two Here

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This may be one of the most important articles posted by this site. What a great set of well thought out, (quite relevant and timely!) insights and observations Thank you Mr Duchac.

Garbage article. Mental illness is something humans will have to live with forever.

In terms of drugs and treatment, they often change the person. I refused the medication I was supposed to be on and opted to work on my problems myself, without being chemically altered. I grew as a person, without changing who I am.

Navy, I’m glad you were able to overcome your issues by yourself. Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate. I’ve been on a combination of lithium and anti-depressants/anti-psychotics for almost 20 years now and the only change in my personality is that I got myself back. I don’t consider myself “altered” or “changed.” Not saying my way is the right way, not saying your way is the right way. IDIC, my friend…. each of us handles these challenges in their own way.

“Garbage article”

Garbage response.

“I refused the medication I was supposed to be on and opted to work on my problems myself…” I’ve never met a person for whom this works, but by all means, keep sneering at others while priding yourself on your oh-so-incredible self-reliance. If your issues had actually improved, you wouldn’t have such a sneering attitude toward others. People who have actually gone through and conquered mental illness know better than to be so sneering and dismissive.

I went off my meds by choice. I didn’t enjoy being up for thirty-six hours and then sleeping for six. I also didn’t enjoy choking and needing to be on oxygen either. Is my life still messed up? Kinda, but it has it’s bright spots. Like not thinking whenever I walk past a group of laughing people that they’re laughing at me.

I don’t think we can “conquer” mental illness, we can only use our coping skills, usually incuding medication, to deal with it. Navy seems to have the feeling that if people are strong enough, they can heal themselves. This is not the case with schizo-affective disorder, but can sometimes work with anxiety or mild depression.

Perhaps he began meditation and exercise, which do help us live in the moment and stop stewing over “what might have been” or mistakes we have made in the past.

The “Snap out of it!” thing my parents used to say never did me any good! It’s a patronizing and I might say, cruel, assessment, that depressives are just “lazy” and “self-indulgent.”

I wouldn’t call it a garbage article, but I do generally agree with your basic point, which is that it would have been worse to sugarcoat mental illness and make it seem like a thing of the past, which to me, almost trivializes it. I wouldn’t say the same for racism or conflict, of course (because i know that will be someone’s immediate response)– there is a difference between the two issues.

While they didn’t get it quite right, and could have delved deeper or more seriously at the issues at times, I think for a family program shown in that era of Trek, they did a decent job.

I understand navy’s perspective though it doesnt work for everyone. I changed as a person after having some set backs that caused me to be unhappy with who I was. I had people encourage me to seek counselling. But I did become introspective and more i tune with myself and changed myself for the better.

On the flip side a close friend sought counselling and has been medicated, to his detriment in my opinion. My brother is also medicated for bi-polar issues but as he is a music producer/engineer he finds the drugs stifle his creativty and must manage them or go off them when hes working.

I’ve been on some medications [back in the day] that did change me, that muted my energy and creativity. Meds need to be carefully managed and sometimes dosages need to be increased or decreased. And sometimes a different medication can help you better be who you really are.

It’s interesting that these days, brain researchers are looking beyond the chemical compounds and their effects on brain chemistry to effect changes for the better. But for now, I am ever so happy that SSRIs exist. I am better able to step back and analyze, and stop “cycling” in a whirl of negative thoughts.

I am grateful beyond measure to be out of the Gray, and even if it takes a dependence on meds, I’m able to say I no longer want to die.

By the way, John, thank you for the article, and for your honesty about your perspective. I was very glad to see this.

It’s not always easy to say to people that I have a mental illness, but I’ve learned to be “up front” about it, and I find it somewhat amusing [in a sad way] how freaked out some people can be. Subtly, of course, giving great distance, as if I’m going to go bonkers in a group situation, or follow them into an alleyway.

Education is key.

And who you are is such a sensitive, thoughtful person with deep insights and the ability to see different sides of an issue. How wonderful that you refused to change who you are. The world is undoubtedly a better place thanks to insightful comments such as yours, and your encouragement to tell the mentally ill they should forego their medication. You deserve a medal.

Very surprised to see no mention of the original series episode “Dagger of the Mind”.

Or… wait for it…. Whom Gods Destroy: “We have a medicine that can CURE you…”

I read the first paragraph, scratched my head, did text searches for “Dagger of the Mind” and “Whom Gods Destroy”, and only found these comments. I’m not returning to the second paragraph.

I don’t know that either of those episodes portrayed mental illness in a realistic or sympathetic light either. “Dagger” is really a mad-scientist story, where the key turning point is eventually believing Dr. Van Gelder is *not* insane.

“Whom Gods Destroy” portrays the “criminally insane” as, basically, over-the-top, camp caricatures – it might as well have been the Rogues’ Gallery from the 1966 Batman series. Oh wait, it kinda was, wasn’t it?

And this sort of treatment carried over to DS9’s ‘Statistical Probabilities’ which presents people on various points of a genetically-enhanced autism/Asperger’s spectrum as very stagey, theatrical one-note characters; the ‘leader’, the ‘sexpot’, the ‘recluse,’ the ‘child-man’, and all of them somehow Rain-Man-style savants (coincidentally, and plot-usefully).

OMG, Fred, These are among the worst episodes of Trek. “Statistical Probabilities” made me cringe.

“Dagger of the Mind” and “Whom Gods Destroy” were kind of products of their time, the 1960s, when not much was known about mental illness. At this point medically speaking we were treating the affect, not the brain chemistry. [If someone was manic: ‘dope ’em up’, if someone was depressed, ‘tell them “chin up, stop moping, get off yer ass.” ‘]

The only decent episodes of Trek dealing with mental illness were the episodes about Nog’s PTSD.

The article’s not intended to be a comprehensive inventory of the depiction of mental health treatment in Trek. It’s supposed to be about two case studies; it makes sense to tackle the longer-term cases we encountered. That means that TOS would probably not be the best venue for an article like this.

That said, O’Brien’s suffering in “Hard Time” and Bashir’s situation in “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” would be ripe for analysis of the Federation’s failure, especially because they deal with regulars.

I think the article tackled the right subjects for an article of this scope.

Understood, but the article should have covered how ALL of ‘Trek dealt with “mental illness”. You could easily gone back to “The Cage”, here Captain Pike felt the need to resign over the deaths of crew, or in “Miri’s World”, on how children need to cope with the death of a parent. But keep in mind that ‘Trek rarely gets into the minutia of a particular plot point, including tackling mental illness. And who’s to say that what Barclay or Nog went through was a form of “mental illness”, and just a reaction to their environments?

dswynne, I think John Duchak is going to write more on this subject, so this article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive examination.

Yes John has a companion piece planned.

Why the partition into two parts? I very much dislike such negative portrayals of Trek as seen in this part.

Is it to attract attention?

Trek is Trek, not activism.

Not all criticism should be accommodated by fans. Discretion is the better part of valour.

Miri (not ‘Miri’s World’) was not about children coping with the death of a parent, that was And The Children Shall Lead, in which a group of children are made into the servants of a malevolent entity that caused their parents to kill themselves.

What Barclay is as a Holodeck user was already described as a coping mechanism.

This article is beyond ridiculous. So sorry that the writers of a TV show couldn’t eliminate yet another dramatic character element to make a show interesting, watchable and conflicted. “Yes, Star Trek writers should have eliminated stereotypes of mental conditions…. thereby rendering it even more devoid of complexity and intrigue”.

If our mental illnesses were eliminated…. there would be no Star Trek or any other TV show. That’s because there would be no character conflict. Everything dramatic comes down to some sort of mild form of mental illness or skewed judgement. Wouldn’t every Star Trek villan be diagnosed with a chronic mental disorder???? Does Nero seem balanced to you? Is Khan not a whacked-out sociopath?

The writer of this article is “upset” that the characters of Riker and LaForge justifiably wanted Barclay transferred off the ****flagship of the Federation****.

So the writer would rather have no dramatic tension, character flaws or learning curve for Riker, LaForge or Barclay to overcome and ultimately realize the value of Barclay, as they ended up doing.

This article screams of someone desperate for a topic to write about. And for an article author to pose as being a champion of the gravitas of mental illness depiction to then literally compare mental illness to Star Trek being able to cure “skin lesions” and “ocular myopathies” … so why not mental illness as well (!!!)…. is technically more “offensive” than how Trek TV allegedly “treated” mental illness altogether.

Please stick to your PS4 game reviews. You are way out of your element here.

I concur. its a TV Show from the 60’s and 90’s. Conflict sells and grows an audience. I believe you are probably looking in the wrong place for sensitivity to mental illness from a TV Show. Trek may have failed in the depicting the future of mental health, but it hasn’t stopped the overall following and more importantly, the appeal(growth) that it has too many many Trek fans over the decades.

Your comment is beyond extreme, I think. I liked the article, made me think about things differently, and made some good points. I agree with you that drama can be borne from skewed judgments, but “mental illness” can’t be applied to everyone with an opinion. I think that’s why it’s that much more a fascinating topic to include, because mental illness is a complicated subject. And we should be able to treat the mentally ill on the ***flagship of the Federation*** and also have big bad antagonists; Nero and Khan haven’t taken their mental illnesses seriously, otherwise maybe they’d seek out some help. So I think this article is on the mark, but I also agree with your assertion that boring people make for boring television. I always liked Reg for his uniqueness. But mental illness does deserve revisiting by this franchise.

“Nero and Khan haven’t taken their mental illnesses seriously, otherwise maybe they’d seek out some help.”

They did not seek help, because they did not consider that they could be mentally ill and indeed believed their actions were justified under the circumstances. The same could apply to Edison/Krall.

Mental illnesses can take different forms, some being of a dangerous nature to self and others. However, the *sufferer* does not see that he has a problem. This is where institutionalisation of such a person may be necessary.

Indeed. For instance, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the few that sufferers rarely acknowledge having, and thus it’s extremely hard to get them into treatment. Thus, more therapy for their family and loved ones.

Agreed, Fred.

It’s not about eliminating mental illness, in fact the article seems to be against this as well. It’s about Trek’s failure to depict mental health treatment even on the level of treatment we enjoy today, or in the 90s.

This has long been a problem with Trek. And if anything, it stems from Roddenberry’s insistence on human perfection, therefore stigmatizing perceived imperfections like Barclay’s behavior. If there wasn’t such a tight leash on the writers, and they did some better research, maybe characters with mental illness could have been depicted more realistically, yet still with the optimistic outlook of empowerment that Roddenberry would appreciate, even if he didn’t understand how to get there.

I think, though, that Barclay and others after him were not written under Roddenberry’s aegis. I think it was just lazy writing with even lazier research.

Yes, Nero and Khan were mentally unbalanced, but there are plenty of characters in drama who do things for selfish reasons or a desire to protect “their own” or many other human motivations. To equate selfishness, for example, with mental illness, is to have a basic misunderstanding.

Some mental illnesses can make people act in certain ways, but human beings, sui generis, have plenty of agency to act in anger, temporary madness, grief, and so on.

By and large, I think your comments are well-taken, and I agree with them.

Another case of Mental Illness on Star Trek is Extreme Risk from Voyager. After bottling her emotions for so long, B’Elanna becomes emotionally numb uses the holodeck to self-harm. The crew realizes something is wrong but she pushes them away. The Doctor diagnoses her with Depression but we don’t see any organized treatment. Instead Chakotay takes her to the holodeck and forces a confrontation. I like how the episode handles it and even ends with B’Elanna saying she’s not miraculously better. But the episodic nature means she is back to normal next week which is a shame because Extreme Risk mentions a few points of continuity from season 4 and 5. It’s also too bad they didn’t reference Janeway’s own spiral of guilt, depression and isolation that happened only two episodes earlier.

I am not sure what are the procedures in the US Army, but over here, a mentally ill person like Barclay wouldn’t even be able to enroll – and as for Nog, doctors wouldn’t let him go without being sure he’s mentally okay. Starfleet apparently has some deeper (much deeper) problems with responsibility and competency; counsellors with their $20 correspondence course in New Age psychobabbles are just a tip of the iceberg.

Paul, in the US, service members fear to mention any mental difficulties when they get back from a combat zone. They fear they will be given poor marks because they’re perceived as weak, or a detriment to their unit. Active members with PTSD try to conceal it because they don’t want a medical discharge.

And there have been problems making proper diagnoses of ex-service members who do admit to PTSD because there is no diagnosis noted **during their active service time**; thus, the VA determines “no ‘service-connected’ disability.” Which means the person who served their country is on their own. I believe the VA is making progress here, but there has been a lot of frustration since Viet Nam.

I can see where you are coming from with this article, but I would point out that Star Trek was about a positive bright future for humanity, not a Utopia. Human nature is a big theme of Star Trek and human nature is not likely to change for millions of years, if ever. Humans will continue to evolve as well as alien beings. Another big subject of the Star Trek future. There is a dark side to human nature. Individually and corporately as a species, we carry within us the capacity for both good and evil. This duality was explored in the original series first season when Kirk was split into two Kirks. A Jekyll and Hyde story “The Enemy Within.” Don’t expect perfection in the Star Trek universe. That would also go against the premise of Star Trek.

I also find some of the afflictions mentioned in the article as representative of “mental illness” as being far from the case. In fact, most are just normal human responses to difficult situations. Humans are emotional beings, not androids. If we eliminated such matters, then humans would not be humans, but would be like Commander Data.

I always really appreciated that Picard told Geordi to not give up on Barclay. It shows a more advanced management style than we typically see today.

Indeed. Are there any business and organizations that have active mentoring of new or troubled employees anymore?

Nah, thanks to modern-day corporate and in$–ance culture, a mentally ill worker gets six, yes SIX, whole sessions with a therapist ! Wow, by that time you might just arrive at a definite diagnosis. But whoops, employee will exceed their allowable number of treatments after six visits!

Thank god I was in the military. I had some rough patches, but was able to make it through.

Yes, the modern HMO is terrible at mental health, they grind people through in 20 minute!! sessions.

The effect of which is probably negligible to the patient, unless they get some mood balancers that still fail to address underlying issues. Jaysis on a unicycle!

You are leaving out TOS and the fact that all severe mental illness had been cured except for those individuals showcased in “Whom God’s Destroy.” This episode did a very good thing AND a very bad thing. First, all severe mental illness had been cured! Fantastic, Amazing… But there are a few so far gone that we hadn’t been able to cure, and let’s put them in a freak show episode to show how dangerous mental illness could be. Granted, by the end of the episode Garth of Izard is cured (and by extension fellow group of circus performers), but the depiction of them as deranged people bent of total destruction of the current society didn’t paint a very flattering picture. Compare this handling of mental illness with how it was handled in TOS, DS9, and VOY (Suicidal Belana) and you will see how far the show progressed in its treatment of the issue. It only makes sense that the next iteration of trek will handle this differently mirroring how our society is different from the 90s. Are we there yet? No. Have we (and trek) shown progress? Yes. In our modern Era we like to think that societal change should take place according to the speed of the Internet and how fast information can be shared. Long standing prejudices take generations to weed out. And trek IS a force that helps here.

Mental disorder may related our body electric energy flow. If body electric flow tune up, most of mental disorder may cure.. Tune up may easy and perfect..

Deanna Troi was a quack who just walked around stating the obvious. Guinan was the real counselor on the D.

That’s the issue: Deanna Troi was a psychologist, not a psychiatrist; she was not a doctor, therefore not a quack. She was just written badly.

Indeed, Adrian.

And it’s funny to see how much ’90s-style talk therapy she does ;-)

Good post Rosie. Deanna Troi wasn’t just a quack, she was a quack in a bunny suit. Her empathic traits were usually ignored in favor of babble.

One of my TNG pitches (the best one actually, something I wrote out as two full teleplays before going in) dealt with this, where for once Picard has some genuine issues after a kid dies aboardship. He goes to do his usual couple minutes with Guinan, but she blows him off, saying he needs real help from Troi, not just to hear a bartender follow her own prime directive of ‘always tell the customer what they want to hear.’

Jeri Taylor blew it off with, ‘Picard wouldn’t get bogged down by something like this.’ Ron Moore argued in favor of my story for several minutes, but Taylor just kind of kept repeating herself (the only part of any of my many pitches she liked was a dumb sitcommy runner/Cplot about Picard always making a point of being offship for his birthday so he doesn’t have to suffer through that, and for once being stuck and having to endure the ceremony.)

Really really wished that Piller hadn’t gotten called out to deal with a GR tantrum while I was waiting to pitch to him, because I’ve always believed I would have sold him at least one of my pitches. I hadn’t ever felt tremendously secure about all of my creative writing (as opposed to my nonfic stuff, which has always been competent) but when i went into that meeting that day, I was really confident, not cocky but utterly sure of the goods I was presenting. Really spent a couple months in a rotten place emotionally after bombing out there before I got perspective and started writing CRITICAL ORBIT, my anti-Trek premise out into a whole file drawer full of material, about half of which I’m still rather proud of (think FIREFLY, but with better science.)

Why the frack was Roddenberry ever allowed to write TV/ movies in the 70’s and 80’s anyway? He was completely out of it*, and people should have known that.

*Substance abuse

Thanks so much for sharing this though I must admit, it’s hard to prevent mental illness. With Nog for example, it was caused by an outside source, there will always be PTSD, you can’t create a vaccine for it. On the other hand, Barclay’s character could have been used to de-stigmatize mental illness and they really missed that opportunity. Star Trek exists to give us a positive view of humanity’s future but that doesn’t mean it can be perfect. I think this is a great critique of an important topic.

It would have been great if Picard had expressed difficulties after the Locutus incident. Now THAT would have been a well-written episode. Instead he apparently buries it and carries on until “First Contact,” when he lets it all hang out and scares the bejeebers out of Lily.

Didn’t the followup episode “Home” cover some of that? Like he was struggling to maintain this veneer of control, and finally his conflict with his brother Robert brought out his deeply hidden trauma and guilt. It would have been interesting to see more follow-up, but the nature of the syndicated show prevented there being “arcs” as we know them now; something that will now be possible with Discovery’s format.

One episode Where I thought Deanna was pretty effective was The Hunted.

So, you’re capable of copying and pasting a url but incapable of making a comment about it? You post a link to an outdated, out-of-print book of nonsensical quackery from 30 years ago…with no comment? Try harder next time. Try to actually communicate something.

Try reading the book. Or do your lips get too tired when you read?

That’s your reply? A childish retort, unworthy of anyone over the age of 10? Seriously, why don’t you try to communicate a lucid thought here. You have someone willing to engage with you, so you shouldn’t squander it with additional stupid comments. Try acting like a mature, rational person, and post an actual comment with actual content. You might like it!

Why did you post that link? Are you saying you agree with that idiotic book? Are you saying mental illness isn’t real?

Or are you just a troll, incapable of rational conversation? That’s fine, too, just let me know so I don’t waste any more time on you.

As a depression sufferer (not victim) I agree with many aspects of the article. I won’t use the drugs, but I have done some therapy – I still do when I need it.

It’s one of the many built-in flaws of TNG that a show that is about ‘perfected’ people inevitably can’t handle real, ‘imperfect’ people with real issues. The arrogant ‘lets all laugh at the freak’ attitude pervades all of TNG, in the crew’s dealings with life forms that don’t share the same values and morals and in their dealings with the human likes of Reg Barclay.

Far more more interesting would have been seeing the ship’s psychologist (as Troi was intended to be) in charge of a team that deals with the issues related to long term space travel, as opposed to civilian planet hopping.

Trio working alone makes no sense: it’s utterly inappropriate for Troi to be dealing with the psychological issues of the bridge crew with whom she socialises and completely reprehensible that she counsels Will and Thomas Riker with whom she has had an intimate relationship. Indeed, Thomas’s eventual fall from grace could be directly related to her involvement in his therapy so early on after his discovery. Similarly, she shouldn’t be allowed within a light year of counselling Reg Barclay if he’s hung up on her.

It’s a weakness in the writing that they really had no idea how to use the character and, I suspect, no real idea about counselling or psychotherapy.


I kind of relate. I think the desire to medicate the problem away is yet another symptom to a problem.

The other issue is that, in a ‘perfected’ human society, how would people with issues but radical intelligence and the ability to see things differently be treated, day to day? How would they look at a John Forbes Nash Jr? Would they have a pill that not only sorts out his issues, but would change his way of thinking? These utopias, as depicted in the likes of TNG, often mean well, but they end up bordering on fascist.

Dom, I agree. There were aspects of “counselling” that were cringe-worthy, and the Riker “twins” was quite the example.

Unfortunately, mental health issues were the one area that writers could explore to create stories on a weekly basis. I don’t see this as a failure in Star Trek as much as it is a failing in our need to find conflict to make a story interesting. I look at the amazing advances we have made in my lifetime in learning about how the brain works and believe that we will make great strides in addressing mental health issues in the future. The problem in writing Sci-Fi is how to create stories set in the 24th Century when humanity has overcome every other challenge? TNG struggled to find writers that could work within the creative constraints set down by Roddenberry. If he had also stated that humanity had cured mental illness, I’m not sure how many writers could have turned out workable scripts. We need to remember that while Star Trek is set in the future, it is an allegory about the current human condition.

TNG struggled to find writers that could work within the creative constraints set down by Roddenberry. If he had also stated that humanity had cured mental illness, I’m not sure how many writers could have turned out workable scripts.

The real truth is, Gene Roddenberry had no right writing anything like Star Trek after a certain age; he should have truly retired as he said he was going to at a convention in 1985-’86. But, his ego got in the way, and so, we had the mess that was the first season of the show, which also carried on into the three other shows in some fashion, especially around topics like mental illness and substance abuse (which he had problems with.)

—because of the stigma associated with mental illness

Who taught you to say that? Can you stop?

The only mental illness I see around here are from people who don’t like the Kelvin timeline movies. What a bunch of wackos

I’m in complete agreement, and all they do is make themselves look like what was described in this satirical video. I’ve never seen a group of supposedly adult middle-aged people carry on this way about a franchise that was written as being action-adventure from the get-go.

Every time I see an episode with Barkley, I think the same thing, it is handled too lightly, even made fun of, by giving him the nickname, the “cure” is too easy

I don’t think Barclay is ever “cured”, but rather he learns to cope with his neurosis to become functional.

I’m hoping for a character on DSC dealing with a mental illness.
(I’d also like to see poly-amorous characters as well, but that’s another post.)
People tell us “you look fine” but we are not.
Telling people to stop taking medication is dangerous.
A lot of people struggle in the dark, afraid to come forward.
Thanks for bringing this topic to light.

One form of mental illness or mental handicap not mentioned here is autism which my daughter suffers from. I have come to view Barclay as suffering from this. Like him she even at 3 is often dismissed or misunderstood. One comment we get more then any other is “she doesn’t look autistic” which upsets my wife and I alot. This is something I would really like Trek to explore. I would love to see a future where my daughter and others like her are not dismissed but are embraced.

I always thought of Data as a sort of character relatable to autistic people. Seven of Nine from Voyager too. Both characters struggled to fit into their groups and both struggled with emotions, understanding and friendship. Basic everyday stuff that autistics generally find very difficult. I’m autistic myself. (Mild autistic, apparently.)

*MANY* autistic / Asperger’s people identify with Data.

Seven of Nine is not autistic, IMHO, but just suffering having the will of the Collective pressed into her for most of her life (see the feature-length [two-parts in syndication] episode Dark Frontier for more of what I mean.) As a little girl, she was full of life and rambunctious.

The thing is, there are varying degrees of autism, some not so obvious. But I wouldn’t get mad at others for thinking this. Unfortunately, society has a very stereotypical view on what constitutes as “autistic, many we (in general) think that someone who is autistic looks like, and I do apologize for this, a person named “Corky”. Not only is that assumption wrong, but it could lead to misdiagnosis of the nature of the illness.

Correct. They are social learning conditions that come with a few behaviour and sensory issues.

He definitely is not autistic. His social troubles are purely a result of anxiety not an inability to read social cues. When he is not misinterpreting things due to anxiety, he reads body language and facial expressions perfectly well. Barclay has no repetitive or sensory processing difficulties, understands the kinds of things autistic people usually have trouble with. Social anxiety can be mislabeled as autism. I was once told I was an aspie, but where the social skills problems come from is not the same.

What the frack, sir? Autism is NOT a mental illness at all, but a neurological condition. You need to stop listening to quacks about autism, and find organizations that will help you understand your daughter very well.

Star Trek just has not addressed mental issues correctly. As this article says, the writers just don’t know what to do with them and no one seems to be on the show to advise them. Deanna Troi, Lieutenant Commander, later Commander, the senior psychologist on-board is labelled as ‘Counsellor’, as if she can do nothing else. Counselling is but one aspect of psychology.

Troi could have been the cultural expert and linguist on the ship – like Tam Elbrun in TNG’s Tin Man, but even more diverse with her skills. Her empathy could have helped to understand complicated and alien cultures. Marina Sirtis really missed out on having a pivotal character with an exciting potential – glimpses of which we saw in Insurrection when researching the species they were about to encounter. Oh well.

You then have the prevalence of the medical model of mental ‘illness’ and psychiatry that has pervaded Star Trek. The medical and biological model explains some things but not all by a long way. The labelling and stigma of Barclay was a low point and this article does well to address that. This is not a dark series like Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica that has alcoholics and people left to cope on their own.

Was it not Captain Kirk who said on the City on the Edge of Forever that the most important words were “Let me help”? By the 23rd Century, we have evolved as a species and we are there to help people to pick themselves up who have stumbled. Let’s hope Star Trek moves forward and addresses these issues in the future.

Unfortunately I think the producers looked more at Troi as “eye candy” with a topping of compassion. I agree with your ideas of what could have been done with her character! Such potential!

On The Star Trek TOS Episode, Whom Gods Destroy, The Federation had a cure for mental illness.

How do you cure some issues that are not biological? Who are we to determine what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘an illness’? Illness implies disease – can you catch depression? Take Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an example. Hull (2002) talks about how people have the area of the brain responsible for turning thought into language becomes less active during a PTSD episode. Now it is reported that during an attack of PTSD the individual cannot talk about the incident. Now could it be they CANNOT talk about it? Bottom line: PTSD comes from a traumatic event and has aspects that are biological, genetic and psychological as well; you cannot cure it with pills, but you can treat it with a full psychological package. Star Trek needs to talk psychology and science and have a more balance approach than 1950s-style psychiatry and medical model.

This is why I hate the term “mental illness.” I’m not sure what I’d suggest in place of it, because they all sound horrible. Brain imbalance, Cognitive disability, etc. etc.

As someone who suffered from clinical levels of social anxiety and depression as a young teen in the late 80s, “Hollow Pursuits” resonated deeply with me. While I wasn’t quite the person they portrayed Barclay to be, some of the scenes and dialogue he has in the episode really made me feel like “wow, I’m not the only one like that.” I had never seen a portrayal of a character like that before, at least not in a family program.

So while they may not have gotten it right, from personal experience I can say hat what they did accomplish was meaningful to someone.

Lastly, I don’t think it’s troubling that they didn’t portray a hopeful future for the mentally ill– if anything, they showed a slightly more realistic portrayal of mental illness. Regardless of the future, or hope, they showed sometimes sufferers can get better (Nog), sometimes they can learn to cope (Barclay) and sometimes they are too far gone, but with proper support and care they can still have something to offer and achieve a level of happiness (“Statistical Probabilities”).

I like that nobody ever suggested a magic hypo of whatever just to fix the problem (although Trek doctors did overprescribe sedatives).

In the ’90s, this frustrated me – “medication will fix this now!” – but now I realize that medication is not an actual fix.

More than physical illness I feel like it would have just come off as condescending if a character suffering from depression had simply been given a hypospray and sent on their way– because even today, it’s not as simple as prescribing a pill.

And while it may be that someday there is an easy medication to cure depression with no side effects, we’re still talking about a television that is watched by contemporary audiences, and I know that as a former suffering if i’d seen that I would not have liked it.

Yes, Torchwood, I agree. Even with chemical correctives such as mood balancers and SSRIs, patients still need counselling/talk therapy to manage aspects of their lives they’re now able to cope with thanks to medication.

Medication is helpful though. I think I get what you’re saying — medication can only MANAGE, not fix, one’s condition, by correcting balances of chemicals in the brain, to allow one to think more rationally.

Good article. As others noted, there are many examples in TOS of mental illness used as character motivation for conflict – not only on the Tantalus Colony and Elba II (Whom Gods Destroy), but also with people like Janice Lester, Richard Daystrom, Lawrence Marvick, etc…

I think it’s courageous of the author to share his own struggles. Thanks for that. But I don’t know if “Hollow Pursuits” is a “disappointment” in showing how mental illness can be treated. Yes, Riker and LaForge want Barclay gone – but that’s a very common reaction in a team setting, especially for Type-A overachievers that would tend to populate Starfleet. Even Wesley’s reaction — sympathetic, but not knowing how to respond and interact — feels realistic.

The original script, as I recall, actually had no sympathy for Barclay, and showed him being laughed off of the ship at the end. At least here, Picard and Guinan encourage (or order) a more sympathetic, considerate, tolerant approach. The fact that Barclay grows to be a valued member of the crew in subsequent episodes despite his issues, I think, is a very positive depiction, isn’t it? Again, thanks for the article; looking forward to Part II.

I agree, John. I don’t know how else the show could have handled it. You can’t comment allegorically on a modern day problem in a future-set show unless you show the actual problem. By making it Barclay, rather than a one and done alien culture of the week, and showing some vestiges of prejudice, you create a sympathetic character that turned out to be one of the best recurring characters in the history of the franchise. It’s easy to cry foul every time a situation is depicted in a less than desirable fashion. The author should give the showrunners credit for even touching the issue and save the self righteousness for the real world where mental illness is largely ignored. While sympathetic to his battle, I think the author was reaching in his argument.

Not sure this article really belongs on this site. This is supposed to be a fan site more than anything else.

Indeed “Pathfinder” made me cry rivers. Such a beautifully written episode.

Pathfinder was a favorite of mine as well.

The point of Reg Barclay, was that of the underdog saving the day; as he always seemed to do.

Kudos for the amazing screen name! :)

Clever screen name, indeed.

Around the time of the Nog episode (and then the Voyager episodes where the invisible aliens were doing experiments – Janeway’s dopamine levels were out of whack and the doctor was giving her massages), I was pissed off that Trek wasn’t showing a magic bullet solution for depression/anxiety (I was on antidepressants for the first time, then).

But I now think the solutions, especially in Nog’s case (counselling and moving forward) really will be the only solutions, ultimately (along with exercise, meaningful social connections and having a purpose). Correcting neurochemical balance won’t affect the underlying issues (and I’m talking less about serious bipolar disorder or schizophrenia). Depression, anxiety and stress are part of the human condition.

How should Barclay have been treated? As a person with a disease who had no responsibility/repurcussions? How would that help him inprove/get better/do his job? Instead, it showed that he was expected to perform as well as everyone else and not treated with kid gloves, even with his issues.

By the way, this is absolutely something we should be discussing here. I’m surprised to see people saying that this shouldn’t be talked about on a fan site.

Accusing Trek over its entire existence of various things — especially treating a broad subject quite poorly — isn’t very fan-like. It’s critical. This isn’t a site dedicated to criticism and doesn’t pretend to be. It should be supportive and appreciative of Trek as a whole. Or just be a news site and let it be. There are enough places where Trek is criticized for not being all things to all people.

Like your other comment (“Not sure this article really belongs on this site. This is supposed to be a fan site more than anything else.”), your comment here is ridiculous in the extreme. (I honestly wonder if you’re trying to be funny and failing miserably.) Since when are you the arbiter of what this site should be? Trekmovie has posted articles like this before–you know, articles about aspects of Star Trek–so it shouldn’t be difficult to grasp.

Why wouldn’t an article discussing Star Trek’s handling of a current-event issue belong on a fan site? Since when is being critical not “very fan-like”? I mean, seriously? Have you been a Trek fan for less than 10 minutes? Because otherwise you’d know that being a fan is ALL ABOUT being critical for a lot of fans.

There’s just no logic or rationality behind your comments on this article. None. Zilch. Nada.

There is fan-like criticism and then there is wholesale condemnation of how a large-scale issue has been handled. The latter would not be fan-like at all. What’s the difference between not supporting a series and not supporting its decades-long portrayal of a serious subject that the author feels very strongly about?

One can be critical of certain minor aspects of a show and still be a fan. But once you make the criticism all about the series, and vice versa, then you probably should post in some literary criticism venue rather than a fan site.

This isn’t a negative site and shouldn’t lend its voice to such seriously corrosive commentary regarding the entire Trek franchise. What’s the point of that?

There isn’t “wholesale condemnation” of anything in this article. Yet again you’ve posted a logic-free comment that simply makes no sense in the context of 50 years of Star Trek fandom or the many years of this site…or basic rational conversation.

This isn’t a negative article. It is a critical one, but that’s 100% par for the course with any fandom, especially Trek fans, especially on this site. Your complaints are like someone going to a football forum and complaining about all the Monday-morning quarterbacking. Well, duh, that’s part of fandom!

Methinks you have some anti-psychology or anti-mental health bias, or something else perhaps, that is driving your completely unfounded and irrational comments here. There is just no logical thinking in your comments.

Wholesale or not is a matter of degree, which makes a difference. This is not wholesale but approaches it. Blanket criticism without much constructive comments approaches it.

Discussion should be appropriate to the intended audience. This is not a seminar or self-help group. Most regular people probably find this criticism irrelevant or indulgent. Most fans probably feel the same way– if not more so. Again, Trek cannot be all things to all people. It’s a dramatic presentation. It will have disturbed people as part of its stories.

This is TrekMovie, not Pop Psychology Today.

Nothing against the author but I question why this article is even here.

I wish him the best.

I swear, it’s as if you’ve decided to make each new comment even less rational than the previous one. “Nothing against the author but I question why this article is even here.” BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT STAR TREK. How freakin’ hard is that for you to process?

Are you a Scientologist, perchance? Or some other anti-psychiatry, “mental illness isn’t real” type of person? Because that’s the only thing that would make sense of your nonsensical comments here. Otherwise, you’re just repeating the most illogical, rationality-free hogwash.

I’m only saying the obvious: That this is not really the place to throw narrow personal agendas at the public. Why is that so odd or irrational?

Now it’s clear that you’re too biased against mental illness, or the concept of such, to communicate rationally about it. Nobody here threw a “narrow personal agenda” at the public. A writer examined an aspect of Star Trek. Period. The fact that you consider that a “narrow personal agenda” says a lot about you, but doesn’t reflect on the author or this site at all.

What next? You’ll complain about an article discussing props in Star Trek because Trek can’t be all things to all people and we should push personal agendas… Really, that’s how ridiculous your comments on this article have been.

Star Trek had episodes that dealt with mental illness. This is a Star Trek site. This is an article about mental illness in Star Trek. WHAT PART OF THAT IS SO HARD FOR YOU TO GRASP? You’re not “saying the obvious” at all! You are denying the obvious because of your personal bias. YOUR personal feeling is the ONLY thing driving your opinion here.

The only “narrow personal agenda” being thrown around here is yours.

*shouldn’t push personal agenda…

I’ve responded to your concerns in other messages. Condemning Trek in this way is not very fan-like and turns people off. It asks for conflict on a fan site. It raises extraneous issues and takes up time and space that should be used for other purposes given the reason the site provides its existence.

It’s like going to a ball game or even a baseball fan meeting and saying to the crowd that one can evaluate as poor every instance of pitching in the history of that franchise. It’s a bit ridiculous. It’s not why one goes to games or fan meetings. It also incites rancor as it insists upon itself.

Then may I suggest, you simply skip on down to the next article on the site that interests you.

Good suggestion at this point. Thank you.

What a thoughtful and insightful article. Very well written, and well researched. To quote an old friend… “Fascinating”.

Basically it appears to me to be a form of personal therapy and/or “confession” with a veneer of harsh criticism. Which is fine but I don’t like seeing such things on a fan site. Put it where it belongs. Let us read more subject-appropriate things designed for fans — people who like the various series.

Trek cannot be all things to all people. It just can’t.

So what, you want nothing but uncritical adulation and promotional puff pieces and glossy 8x10s of the Enterprise? Start your own site!

Being a fan of any pop culture franchise takes many forms, and one of them includes being able to look at your favourite shows through a critical lens. You know, we all have our ‘problematic faves’ – because we love it enough to be honest about it; to want it to improve on how it tells its stories the future. And loving a show, or a person for that matter, means acknowledging and discussing their flaws. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t write about it.

For instance, you can find entire books of scholarly essays and treatises about both the inspirational and problematic aspects of everything from Shakespeare to Buffy the Vampire Slayer – which used its open subversion of pop culture tropes to discuss serious issues of the day, much as Trek used science fiction tropes to do the same. Those people are not asking Joss Whedon to never make a TV show again, nor that all Buffy DVDs be taken out and burned — far from it.

Or you can head over to pop-culture fan site – itself named after the trope of self-inserted author characters in fan fiction – for tons of great, critical essays in between the updates on our favourite shows. You might learn something. You might think about your favourite show in a new light. Or not, it’s up to you.

But you don’t get to tell other people how to be a fan, nor do you get to determine what is or isn’t appropriate content for a site you don’t run — OK?

My opinion on fanship is no less valid than yours or anyone else’s.

Suppressing dissent on who can have an opinion on fanship issues (as opposed to criticism of what constitutes an appropriate article for a fan site) is a common error. The former is ad hominem.

Opinions need to be informed by facts, otherwise they’re just personal preferences.

Uncritical adulation of anything isn’t healthy; that’s why I think fan essays that critique media from different points of view are necessary for it to grow stronger, reflect reality, or to consider voices which often aren’t heard.

Case in point, mental illness and inconvenient aspects of neurodiversity are stigmatized in our society, even though the majority of people will suffer from a mental illness at some time, and we’re increasingly recognizing how differently people are wired (through genetics, injury, upbringing or trauma).

Therefore, it’s worth asking why Star Trek’s writers didn’t treat it more matter-of-factly or realistically. It’s a fair topic for a Star Trek fan site to consider, just as much as race, politics, ethics, or any other topic the various series have touched on.

You’ve not stated at any time any facts which support your argument that it’s not appropriate, nor have you advanced a counter-vision as to what you consider appropriate articles for a fan site, therefore I am left to deduce that you just don’t like the topic.

Why spend time moaning about it though? Skip the article and move on. Or if you have a valid, well-thought-out critique of the article to bring, I’m sure we’d love to hear it. (Personally, I think it could have been more concise and polished-up, but I thought its arguments were thought-provoking.)

Quite to the contrary, opinions are distinct from facts and additionally don’t need to be supported by facts in most cases. This is particularly true in regard to preferences.

Frankly, no one needs to meet your terms or justify opinions to you.

Hat Rick, I invite you to submit an unsolicited article to the TrekMovie staff; a rebuttal or well-reasoned criticism of this article. You can find their e-mails in the “About” section of the site. Present your facts, not your opinions or preferences. Good luck!

People can be fans any way they like. But no one has a right to be published. My opinion that this article is way over the line and abusive of the idea that this is primarily a fan site for Trek news and information makes perfect sense. You may disagree with it and that’s your right, but that doesn’t make your opinion any more valid on this than mine.

Personal advocacy has its place but that place is probably not here — even if relates to Trek. It turns off a number of folks by disparaging the franchise in the name of one person’s interest or opinion on a subject of tangential interest.

Again, not every article pertaining to personal issues alleging that Trek as a whole is grossly deficient in some detail deserves publication on a fan site; indeed, quite the contrary. I’m of the opinion that this article simply doesn’t belong as it is basically off topic.

No one has a right to be published, but the owners of TrekMovie invited this person to write a guest op-ed (or accepted an unsolicited submission.) That was their choice and their rights.

It is your right to read it or not, and to disagree with the arguments put forth in the article, but debating about whether such an op-ed, written by a fan, from a fan’s personal perspective, is “appropriate” or not is a moot point. The site’s editors and publishers believed it was appropriate — and that’s all that matters, because it’s their site, and we the commentariat are merely guests in their house.

To address your points:

“this article is way over the line and abusive” – What is “way over the line” to you? What is “abusive” to you? Those terms should be reserved for speech that is beyond acceptable public discourse, i.e. that sets out to be deliberately and gratuitously offensive, or that attacks a person or group of people. I see no evidence of this.

“It turns off a number of folks” – Who exactly? Besides you and two other people who seem really uncomfortable with the idea of discussing mental illness (which is fine, it’s your own personal thing, just sayin’) I see no evidence that this is the case. You seem to be arguing that your personal turn-off is shared by a larger group of people than is actually the case. Even if it does turn off *some* folks, so what? There will always be content that we dislike or disagree with in the world, and that’s the price we pay for having free speech.

“Personal advocacy” – how is this personal advocacy? What do you mean by that term? Is the person trying to promote themselves in some way as an expert, or trying to encourage readers to purchase their goods or services? There is personal *perspective* in this article, because the author is drawing on their own experiences with mental illness in order to frame their arguments in an informed way.

Pretty much every op-ed in the world involves some aspect of personal experience, and guest articles are invited specifically because of the writer’s background or experiences. I mean, we don’t ask David Brooks to refrain from his East Coast preppy nostalgia and merely publish a weekly set of equations that outline his political-economic theories, do we?

It “disparages the franchise” – How so? Criticism is not disparagement. To disparage something is to judge it worthless, weak, bad. The op-ed does not say that Star Trek *the series* is bad, it points out that the show’s treatment of mental illness has been inconsistent and occasionally misguided, and that there was room for improvement. That is a fair comment to make, and the author supports the argument with their personal experience, specific examples and analysis. If you have a reasoned counter-argument or rebuttal to make, I’m sure the editors would publish it.

If you feel that *any* criticism of something you like is disparagement, which would imply that True Fans can only consume, celebrate and adulate things uncritically (“my franchise, right or wrong?”) I’m curious as to why you feel that way.

It seems to betray a lack of faith in the franchise you claim to be a fan of. Trek would not have survived for 50 years if its base concepts were so weak, or the show put together so poorly, that it would not have resonated with audiences. It is surely strong enough to weather well-founded criticism, and it’s the sign of a strong franchise that it takes these criticisms into account.

The issue is not moot as long as people are invited to comment on articles. Would you have readers accept any editorial judgment and use that acceptance as evidence that a personal preference is wrong? Such an approach to customer service is why enterprises fail.

Common sense is no respecter of editorial bias if such a bias exists. If the bias or erroneous decision defies commonly held beliefs then it invites dissent or, failing that, opprobrium and then the risk of failure and ultimately the loss of any objective sought to be served (e.g., said advocacy). This much should be clearly evident.

The point is, you’re not commenting on the substance of the article, you’re commenting on whether the article *should* have been published or not.

It *has* been published, therefore that is a moot point.

There’s a different discussion to be had, on the question “What topics are appropriate for articles on TrekMovie?” – which is a worthy topic, but not the one we’re discussing here.

To respond to the article with comments saying it shouldn’t have been published at all isn’t constructive; to do so repeatedly feels like an attempt to derail the conversation. I don’t know what you think you’re going to achieve by doing this.

I would suggest, if you have strong feelings about acceptable topics for TrekMovie, that you take some time to think about it, and then write the editors a letter explaining why, when you see an article about (insert topic here), it upsets you.

Or rather, what is it you come to TrekMovie for, that you like and and want to see more of?

“Commentariat” — I like it! And bravo on the rest of your comment.

Thanks Marja :) and back atcha.

I agree with Hat Rick. This is supposed to be a fan site, (not a personal crusade).

It’s a guest essay / opinion. How does that make it a personal crusade? By whom, for what?

Asking for elimination of an entire approach to fiction by essentially sanitizing emotional disturbances and their consequences based on and to the author’s preference is an act of advocacy. Calling Trek defective in this regard is harsh and undeserved as well as off-putting to fans. It also attracts the ridicule of outsiders.

For these reasons, common sense suggests that this is really not the place to get on a hobby horse for such purposes.

Hat Rick,
I don’t think Duchak is asking for elimination of an entire approach to fiction. He is asking for more careful consideration of the approaches in Star Trek. As you can see from comments on this site, a fair number of us agree with him. Calling Trek defective has been done by plenty of people on this fansite, especially with regard to the new movies. It may be off-putting to you, but it is not off-putting to me.

Mental illness is something most people don’t want to discuss because it makes them uncomfortable. In some way they seem to find it off-putting, thus “unworthy” of civil discussion. Which offends *me*.

I find that the outside world thinks of this kind of hypercriticism based on personal issues reinforces the image of Trek fans as not only nerdy, but a community of nebbishes with many issues that need addressing.

It’s not helpful to either the mission of Trek boosterism (or for that matter, newsworthiness) or in some cases what is advocated. I incidentally find what is advocated (a form of leveling of dramatic conflict in the name of what is typically called “political correctness) a bit galling.

Thanks, Capt Matt.

Hat Rick,
Can Trek be everything to techie fans who love the ships and explore their construction ad infinitum? To fans who play the on-line game? Can it be everything to people who like to speculate more on the Klingon culture and its practices? Can it be everything to people who like the art of costuming? Maybe not so much as “everything,” but the world is certainly worth exploring from these perspectives.

And I say it can be something with which we can explore the practice of psychological sciences in the future and the perceptions of the present day with which it is written. Sorry if you find it too “personal” on Duchak’s part. Just skip on down to an article which is more to your taste.

But against your point, I think that if there were an article on this site that made hay out of peculiarities of the Star Trek technical universe, I would have the same antipathy toward it. It would be unfan-like and just plain irritating.

Deanna Troi was a psychologist. She should have been used as a cultural expert and expert across the full social sciences spectrum. She was Picard’s left-hand woman. Why have a Counsellor on your shoulder when you’d just have them counselling besides a couch in the lower decks? What Picard needed was the cultural expert on his shoulder, to advise on cultural aspects like Troi did in Insurrection. They got her ‘right’ in that film. Oh, and why the heck wasn’t she in a uniform? She was a science division officer and a professional. Dressing her in a dress was unnecessary. The Bridge of the Enterprise-D noticeably lacked science officers – Troi was it and should have been from way before Chain of Command. And the season one ‘Cosmic Cheerleader’ uniform did her no favours.

Adrian, I’ll say!

And I wish Uhura in the new films was used in much this way. With all her knowledge of languages, and interpretations of culture one can make from those languages, it would be interesting to see a Communications officer communicating with more than hailing frequencies. At least she got to speak Klingon.

There is only so much Uhura can do in one movie (vs. what other characters are given time to do in the same movie) without it being three to four hours long, so cut out the crap on that. If you or other women want to see a female do that, write your own novel/film script with your own original character, and then try to sell it to the movies or as a novel. Even better, create your own TV show around this, or sell it to CBS Studios as a script for the upcoming Star Trek TV show.

Besides, who can forget the Jack Pack? Science-fiction well done.

Wass ist Jack Pack?

Jack (24th century) – Memory Alpha – Wikia Hopefully this link works. If not, please look up “Jack’s Pack DS9”.

Poor writing aside, this piece explains a lot.

Since this is a sensitive topic, and there’s a lot of people talking past each other, using loose definitions of the word “opinion,” this excerpt from the Little, Brown Handbook may prove useful: “Distinguishing Between Fact, Opinion, Belief, and Prejudice.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that book might as well be one man’s opinion where the rubber hits the road. Whether opinion or belief, the content of an utterance need not be formally justified in this context of preference. We need not parse words when those words express satisfaction or dissatisfaction regarding the underpinnings of an expression, whether moved by emotione or otherwise.

This is hardly a court of law. And besides, your is an appeal to forensic authority when common sense often rules.

I didn’t post it as a “so there!” kind of comment, but as a guide that might help people reflect on theirs and other people’s responses.

I can’t invalidate your reaction to the article, it is what it is. However there seems to be a breakdown in communication based on how you expressed that reaction.

More than one person has expressed frustration with your comments, because you’ve framed your reaction with the trappings of a logical argument — the idea of “a considered opinion based on agreed-upon facts,” — but the content of your arguments are unarguable; they are not rooted in facts, but in feelings / beliefs (in the narrow definition of the Little, Brown Handbook), otherwise your objection would be a structured rebuttal like “I think the author is incorrect when they state X, and here’s why…” etc.

I know from experience / training in facilitated discussions, that framing an issue as “everybody thinks X,” when it’s really “*I* don’t like X,” isn’t productive and leads to misunderstandings. We have to be honest with ourselves first and not try to deflect.

For instance, I have a bad tendency to say “It’s like when you….” when I really mean to say “When *I*…”, because it’s wrong for me to make sweeping generalizations about everyone, when I’m really talking about my personal state of mind.

It’s perfectly fine not to like something, nor to have a worked-out justification for this dislike. We’re emotional and complex creatures!

It’s up to the person to decide if they want to examine their own reactions and figure out why they feel that way.

I think it’s certainly helpful to do so if you want to explain to other people why you feel like that, but in doing so one must also avoid the trap of trying to project our personal emotional reactions into “universal laws” with “logical” structure. I.e. “I feel this, therefore everyone must feel this, and now I’m going to try to justify this feeling with cherry-picked arguments.”

I have greater faith in common sense than apparent in your message. Common sense and sensibility include feelings and subjective beliefs. These have a logic of their own. They are independently important. They’re part of what makes us human and not logical machines.

Thanks for the considered response, however. It’s appreciated.

While I agree that the handling of mental illness was a bit crude, I think you should be taking it in context. As our understanding of mental illness has grown over the past few decades, people have come to expect that mental illness be addressed in a certain manner. Bear in mind that those expectations were not in place when some of these episodes were written. I think it evolved in later years to be more realistic on the issue, as you mentioned in your thoughts on DS9’s Nog episode. In addition, as a mental illness sufferer, I recognize that there is no “magic wand” to solve all of my problems. In a way it is comforting – not disturbing – to think that people in the Star Trek universe might suffer the same doubts, worries and afflictions as me. They deal with it and overcome, just as I’ve had to do.

I look at the Garth episode as a TOS experiment in absurdist theater, which was popular in the ’50s and ’60s. Of course I didn’t know that when I was 12 years old, so probably came to some conclusions which were later changed by my own llife experiences. “Dagger of the Mind” was about a megalomaniac and his uses of others to reach his own ends, and was more sci-fi in nature. As for TNG and others, it was still early days in treatments with SSRIs, and mental illness was something we didn’t yet talk about very frankly.

Not long ago come up of my meds,good luck to all suffering from depression thanks for dealing with this subject matter

Mental illness is something most people don’t care to acknowledge or be compassionate about. “Snap out of it!” is often heard, along with various other cheap platitudes and condescending statements. One thing that helps is to find non-judgmental friends who are truly on your wavelength and treat you with utmost respect. They are often few and far between! As is said in the Desiderata, “Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”

I believe that those who are mentally ill should receive great care and kindness, as well as therapeutic treatment that is both appropriate to their individualized circumstances, and respectful of their personal autonomy. This much is the sine qua non of any approach to the mentally ill in my view.

Mental suffering can be the most torturous of any suffering, particularly to the sensitive, the educated, and the conscientious. In the wrong hands, it could be made to be the most terrible of tortures even theoretically conceivable. It is a very serious matter.

To treat anyone as incapable of suffering, which is implicit in the “snap out of it” idiocy, strikes me as itself inhuman and a more deleterious mental illness than the majority of psychological problems, or even biologically based mental issues, that may be presented.

There are cures for many illnesses, but those who would willfully turn a blind eye to the suffering of others may be incurable and irredeemable moral scourges of the type nearly beyond hope.

@Hat Rick

This paragraph in your excellent post stands out most significantly for me:

“Mental suffering can be the most torturous of any suffering, particularly to the sensitive, the educated, and the conscientious. In the wrong hands, it could be made to be the most terrible of tortures even theoretically conceivable. It is a very serious matter.”

And sadly, far too many people don’t realize or care about it, but my best friends over the years (most of whom have passed on) have fit greatly into “the sensitive, the educated, and the conscientious” categories.

There’s a saying I came across that I try to keep in mind in all of my interactions:

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

@Hat Rick and John Duchak

I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s when these things were little understood, in a home with an older sister who treated me worse than the family dog, and quite often would say things like “snap out of it” or “cut it out you idiot” and other things far worse, a mother who knew this was going on but said little, but fortunately I had a father who, when my sister’s high control freakish drama reached a point where dad would say “Let’s get out of here!” and take me to a movie, a hobby shop, a local magazine stand, or just for a drive; anything to get me/us out of that situation. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens I learned that my maternal grandfather was suffering depression and heavily addicted to drugs, and killed himself when I was about a year old. So there are various manifestations of mental illness on my mom’s side of the family, and I’ve seen it show up over and over again in my cousins on that side as well. Mine has been mostly limited to the depression. But it doesn’t help when some friends are unable or unwilling to understand your states of emotional confusion or low times. Thus my point that some must be “cut loose” from your circle of “friends,” and often certain situations involving certain people should or must be avoided. (I won’t go into how painful family gatherings were and sometimes still are, but luckily I’m old enough and with our parents gone, I simply don’t show up for the rest of the family, because I know those to be very unhealthy.) These “selective social surgery” choices are not cures of course, but it sure does help to stay away from those “loud and aggressive persons” of which the Desiderata speaks. Luckily, I have had and still have a wonderful and understanding wife for the past 25+ years, and going forward into as much future as good fortune will allow us to have. (PS: She’s a Trekker too, like me of TOS and the TOS-cast movies, and of older “vintage” sci-fi films and literature in general.)

in defence of ‘trek’ over this issue you do find that most dramatists find characters succumbing to mental illness the real meat of tv, film and plays rather than seeing them able to get successful treatment in the end.

i suppose that it is a bit insensitive for writers think that than can really deal with this in a 40-45 min tv episode.

I thought about this once: if someone in the Star Trek universe was really insane, could you tell?

In our world, if a cubicle dweller in a megacorporation came to HR and told them he was really supposed to be the CEO, that a Godlike entity had switched him to a lower position… that employee would be out on their ear, if not in the local mental hospital on a Thorazine drip. Yet, that’s what happened to Jean-Luc Picard in “Tapestry.”

If you’re in a universe with super-powerful, reality-altering beings, at what point does the conventional definition of reality go out the window?

it is troi’s position on the ship as counsellor is flawed.

they were loath to have her seen to give long term care to geordi after ‘the mind’s eye’, picard after wolf 359 and ‘chain of command’ and worf after his paralysis.

that the trouble with the re set on TNG.

sorry, i meant it is true that troi’s position as ship’s counselor is flawed in execution.

i would have been nice to see her do long term treatment on those characters i mentioned over the course of the series.

at least she was there for reg.

Now I have seen it all. Good grief.

i would not class reg as mentally ill either.
trying to keep up with the alphas who are his collegues on the enterprise and then on pathfinder has caused him stress he relieves by using the holodeck.

After the death of my first child, I took a mild sedative for a week and went back to work. I eventually took a medication for depression. After a few years, I weaned myself off of it, and I found ways of coping and adapting when I feel the symptoms coming on. The medication truly helped take the edge off so that I could still function, and now I’ve learned to function without them. I saw a counselor for a while, but I gave it up because I missed too many appointments simply trying to find a parking spot (the counselor was at a university and only had hours during the busiest time). I worked it out. Not everyone can. It wasn’t and isn’t easy.

I never really thought about how ineffective Troi was, but Barclay is still to this day the only effective portrayal of social anxiety I have seen on TV, or in books. Writers seem to think it is just shyness and can be cured by a few positive experiences. Barclay shows that it doesn’t go away, but we can still do a good job.