Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel “Brave New World” causes readers to ask whether it is desirable to be happy all the time. It makes me contemplate what role mental health services should serve for society.
The futuristic civilization described in BNW has completed eliminated pain and suffering and replaced it with happiness. Initially, it may seem that this civilization is a utopia, but closer inspection reveals that this happiness has come at the expense of eliminating any sense of purpose from people’s lives.
Despite this, BNW describes a world that has met many of the goals we as a society are trying to achieve. Crime, poverty, homelessness, disease, income inequality and mental health problems have been completely eliminated.
All of the relationships in BNW are superficial as meaningful relationships have the potential to cause unhappiness should they end. Even nuclear families have been abolished.
The citizens of BNW are grown in labs where they are conditioned from birth to enjoy their lot in life. The conditioning is so effective that all forms of adversity have been eliminated from people’s lives. This even includes the process of dying.
Old citizens are taken to carefully controlled centers where they are given drugs to eliminate any anxiety about their impending deaths. Since they have no meaningful relationships, they do not have to worry about leaving friends and family behind, nor is there anybody to mourn their deaths.
There is something about BNW that makes me sad, despite the fact that the citizens are happier than I will ever be. I feel like they have lost their humanity in exchange for a life devoid of suffering, and I question whether this exchange was worth it.
It is true that some mental health issues are so severe that they require treatment. On the other hand, maybe some mental health issues are not problems at all, but rather the side effects of leading a meaningful life.
Life comes with frustrations, and for many people this is at its worst during college. For those of you that are in this situation, it may be encouraging to consider that some good may eventually come out of your frustrations.
I am not trying to discourage people from getting help. Instead I want people with mental health issues to consider that it may be OK to have these issues, even if they are causing problems in your life.
Perhaps the saying is true: it is the journey that matters in life, not the destination. Mental health issues may be an unenjoyable, yet essential part of this journey.