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How “Never Have I Ever” Endorses Mental Health Via Its Lead Mother-Daughter Duo

Never Have I Ever mother, Never Have I Ever - Devi and Nalini
Never Have I Ever portrays a rocky relationship between the lead character Devi Vishwakumar and her mother Dr Nalini Vishwakumar. But when it comes to protecting her daughter from people who thought having mental health issues is a deal breaker in relationships, she stands tall and advises Devi to not care about them.

Mental health is still a taboo topic in India and even among some Indians who live abroad. They are yet to understand the need to remove the unnecessary shame that is associated with the subject. Many kids do not tell their parents that they take help from mental health professionals because if they disclosed this information, their parents might shame them.

*Spoilers ahead.

Never Have I Ever: Of mental health and feminism

From the first season of the show, the character Devi is introduced to us as a vulnerable girl who lost her dad to a heart attack at an early age, following which she has a psychosomatic reaction, causing paralysis in her legs for three months. She is shown going to a shrink almost regularly. In one of the episodes, it is also shown that her mother, despite being a doctor herself, does not believe in therapy and its benefits. However, she doesn’t stop her daughter from consulting a therapist.

Devi’s progress is shown throughout the show with lots of ups and downs. But these issues she faces are never looked down upon even though people constantly call her ‘crazy Devi’ for not being able to handle her emotions well. She faces some lows with her friends when her focus is fully on having a boyfriend and choosing between the characters Paxton Hall-Yoshida and Ben Gross. She even has a rough time with her mother who fails to understand her multiple times. There are good times too when she finally gets together with Paxton and her mom goes ahead to help her friend stay back in her school.

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A still from the show Never Have I Ever. Credit: Netflix

Feminism is intrinsically related to mental health because it encourages people to care for themselves and be vocal about their needs. The show is pretty feminist as it takes a female gaze for a change to look at scenarios of teen romance, challenges of motherhood and the leading character growing up in an all-women household.

We also see a lot of prejudices peddled by other women in the name of culture like a constant rush to find a suitor for Devi’s cousin Kamala who might be doing great professionally still everyone sees her as a barren woman with no hope because she isn’t married yet. However we also Kamala’s grandma disclosing her own struggles as a housewife to a husband who did not earn enough nor had the maturity to handle a household. She wishes that her granddaughter doesn’t have to face the same even thus, she encourages her to be independent enough to never fall into a similar situation as hers. Nalini bans Devi from having a boyfriend unless she has a degree to herself, and makes an exception in the third season because she likes the boy.

Mothers Want Best For Daughters

But the almost perfect relationship of Devi comes to an abrupt end when her mental health issues become a deal breaker. Devi doubts herself to be never enough for anyone in the future. That’s when Nalini tells her, “You’re never too much and you’re always enough”. These golden words cheer up Devi and also send across the message that one’s health problems could never be too much for their loved ones. If a person loves you they’ll love all of you, even the difficult parts and you’ll be enough for them. No one should be feeling insecure about themselves for their health conditions.


Suggested Reading: Ways In Which Mothers Can Support Their Daughters


Mothers usually try to protect their daughters from ill-words others express about them and traditionally advise their offsprings to adjust and compromise the needs to make others happy. But Nalini comes across as a fresh change when she tells Devi not to care about what others think of her, encouraging her to be herself unapologetically. A part of this change should be credited to her daughter Devi who throughout the show always remains herself despite being called names for it. She achieves things that she puts her mind to and does not please others to like her. But sometimes even strong-minded young women like Devi need a mother’s hug and encouragement to power through.

Every daughter, whether they are out and loud about themselves or still discovering their personality, should hear from their parents that they are perfect the way they are and should not feel bad about their difficult characteristics. When the right person comes to their lives, they love them for who they are and even without a lover, they are enough for themselves.

Views expressed are author’s own.

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