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When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted on our tellies back in the day, it was confusing to see the role of a ship's counsellor as a main character alongside the familiar Star Trek roles of Captain, doctor, first mate, engineer, blokes what drive the ship and disposable cannot fodder in red pullovers. "A counsellor?" a younger more naive me might have though, "Why do they need a counsellor? What kind of touchy-feely claptrap is this anyway?" Well it's often been said that Star Trek's creator Gene Rodenberry was a man ahead of his time and time has gone on to prove he was quite correct. As mental health becomes more and more of an important consideration in the work place, the subject is getting taken a lot more seriously than it used to and more workplace practises are being put in to place to safeguard against stress, anxiety and to promote good mental health. As an invisible illness, it's still hard for some employers to treat it with the respect it deserves but on the whole things are getting better.

Obviously by the 24th century they take counselling quite seriously, but back here in the 21st there's still some way to go. I am happy to say that not only has counselling helped me in a big way but it's made me realise how much I get out of helping other people in a way I never thought possible and how important it is for people to have someone to talk to if they're struggling with life. It's not a sign of weakness to open up or to cry or to ask for help. Bottling things up just ends up increasing the pressure on yourself until it all blows up. Sucking it up, buckling down and keeping a stiff upper lip isn't the way to handle it. Employers may want us to 'go the extra mile' or 'give it a 110%' (which to me always sounded like do more for less) but why put yourself under all that pressure if you don't feel like your employer has got your back when all that unpaid overtime or taking on extra responsibility gets too much for you? Like with all forms of sickness, trust is required on both sides but it would be nice to think you could call in sick if your mental health is poor and not be thought of as a slacker who just 'doesn't fancy' going into work that day and just fancies a lie-in.

Counselling isn't some touchy-feely nonsense, it's a legitimate service to make people feel better. If you find yourself acting in a certain way if you feel stressed, isn't it reassuring to find out that those feelings and reactions are the go-to response of lots of people who feel the same way and it's not just a thing unique to yourself? We all seek out something to belong to whether it's a football team, musical preference, area of the country or peer group. We all feel better when we're surrounded by people who feel the same way or have the same likes that we do. Why should mental health symptoms be any different? Why should we suffer alone? Isn't it nice to think we can talk to someone who can reassure us that acting or feeling a certain way is a normal or understandable response and then offer us some guidance or advice in how to deal with it? Heck, isn't it nice to have someone there who's prepared to listen to us without judgement or prejudice and who only wants to help us? Sometimes you can't talk to friends or family if they are directly involved in your issues so a completely impartial voice is just what we need.

It doesn't matter what your social background is or what your relationships have been like. Everyone starts off as a blank slate and are shaped by the sum total of our experiences. I like to think that everyone starts off as a nice person and it's only bad experiences or bad advice or bad people that erode that basic niceness. Some people want us to think that if we're not in the same class or we're not from the same country or don't follow the same religion then we're not deserving of help but that's utter rubbish. Underneath all the trappings, we're all the same people and each prejudice or opinion can be overcome if only we're willing to open up about it. Perhaps that sounds naive of me but I don't want to lose my faith that essentially we can all be good people. If counselling is what that takes, then that's what I want to do to make life - and the world- better for everyone who has to live in it.