It feels like Never Have I Ever released both of its seasons at the perfect time. Season 1 of the Netflix original series created by Mindy Kaling dropped on Netflix at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in late April 2020. The series felt like a mental break from the world of isolation, taking audiences back to the days of high school relationships, family dynamics, and a few therapy sessions to boot. It’s that last element that hooked me back in with season 2, where Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) continues her therapy sessions with Dr. Jamie Ryan (Niecy Nash), and we get a valuable lesson on the role therapy can play in teens’ lives and mental health journeys, too, beyond just seeking help in the aftermath of trauma.
While the first season of Never Have I Ever positions Devi’s therapy sessions as a way to help her comprehend her grief and trauma following the death of her father, Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the second season — out on Netflix July 15 — makes a more holistic argument for the value of mental health resources for teens. For so many other series over the last few decades, therapy sessions have only come up as a reaction to a sudden traumatic event, not an ongoing part of teen life. Another teen-oriented show like 13 Reasons Why, for example, capitalized on the difficulty and darkness of therapy — with each season reaching varying levels of success.
But with Never Have I Ever, Devi’s therapy sessions aren’t just a response to her grief. At 15 years old, Devi not only grapples with the trauma and sadness of her father’s loss, but also the stresses of high school, social media, hormonal changes and more — like so many kids her age. And that opens the door for a larger conversation about the value of mental health support for teenagers and tweens.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of all mental health conditions begin at roughly 14 years of age. Untreated, these struggles can have an indelible impact on teens that extend well into adulthood. And if there were more examples of teen therapy like the ones audiences watch on Never Have I Ever, perhaps more teens would feel empowered to seek out those resources, or to at least normalize conversations about therapy.
Never Have I Ever finds its best, most teachable moments in these therapy sessions. By seeing Devi work through her frustrations, anxieties, and triggers in her day-to-day life in these therapy sessions, audiences see a healthy representation of mental health treatment that isn’t made out to be a last-resort option. Instead, Dr. Ryan’s presence offers a consistency for Devi’s development that not only adds to the character’s mental and emotional growth, but also shows audiences the value and need for sounding boards for teens beyond immediate social circles.
Never Have I Ever provides an example of mental health treatment for teens that is, honestly, exciting. Devi continuing her therapy in season 2 of the series validates and recognizes that many, many teens feel the need for external validation and guidance during these pivotal years in their lives — whether or not they’re currently in crisis. And that’s a message that more teens — and their parents — need to hear.
If you or your teen is struggling with their mental health, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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