Star Trek Guide

Discovery Season 3 Highlights Star Trek's Mental Health Problem

Star Trek: Discovery's time jump has highlighted the need for more depictions of counselors in Star Trek. At the end of season 2, most of Discovery's crew decided to accompany Michael Burnham to the future, leaving behind everything they knew. Since arriving in the 32nd century, the crew has struggled to find some sense of normalcy, and the beginning of the season has seen a number of characters struggling with their mental health after the time jump.

This struggle has mainly been personified in the character of Keyla Detmer, who was responsible for landing Discovery under dangerous conditions after the time jump. While Detmer managed to pilot Discovery down with minimal damage, a number of people, including herself, were injured in the landing. Detmer has been struggling with this fact ever since, and she isn't the only member of Discovery's crew who has been having trouble with mental health issues. While Dr. Hugh Culber seems to have taken it upon himself to act as ship's counselor, he is by no means exempt from his own struggles, only recently escaping from a harrowing ordeal that involved his supposed death. Even Emperor Georgiou has been experiencing issues with what seems to be a repressed memory that has been causing her pain and lapses in concentration.

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The fact that so many characters seem to need professional help in Star Trek: Discovery season 3 has exposed how odd it is that the Discovery ship does not have a designated counselor on board. In fact, besides Counselor Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation(and, briefly, Ezri Dax Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Ship's Counselor is not a staple job on starships in the Star Trek universe. Counselor Troi was part of the crew on The Next Generation's Enterprise because the ship was Galaxy-class, meaning that it boasted a much larger complement of crew families and even civilians. The need for a counselor was greater, and Troi's services were consistently helpful to the crew. However, the salient fact is that there have been characters on every show in the Star Trek franchise that have needed professional counseling at one time or another, whether because of trauma from something that happened in the line of duty, or even just the stresses of living in space. In such a high-stress job as being a Starfleet officer, it would make sense to have every starship equipped with a counselor, especially for vessels on deep space missions or crews that see a higher degree of combat.

The reason for the absence of a counselor might have something to do with the way mental health is treated by society. Up until relatively recently, mental health struggles were a taboo topic, and shows like Star Trek: The Original Series certainly wouldn't have covered them in the 1960s, especially since the cast was predominantly male. It is impressive that The Next Generation chose to take on more storylines about the characters' mental health with the inclusion of Counselor Troi, but even as mental health has become a more appropriate topic, Star Trek shows have shied away from depicting it healthily by including counselors into their main casts, even as characters grapple with issues that could be resolved by regular therapy.

Now that counseling is depicted frequently in media, Star Trek has the opportunity to make take on stories about mental health issues in a more effective way. This would mean making Ship's Counselor a consistent job, and allowing for depictions of crew members attending sessions when they need to. This is especially necessary right now on Star Trek: Discovery, and now that Discovery's crew has reunited with Starfleet, they have the ability to take on more crew members, including a designated counselor.

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