Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of mental illness and self-harm.
Comedian and internet personality Bo Burnham makes fun of his own mental stresses caused by COVID-19 in a new Netflix special.
“Inside” was used to document Burnham’s own feelings of loss and yearning during the year-plus quarantine.
Burnham best summarizes the entirety of 2020 in the opening number of Inside, “Content.”
Burnham sings “If you had told me a year ago that I’d be locked inside of my home, I would have told you a year ago: ‘Interesting; now leave me alone’.”
Since its release on June 30 Inside has received critical acclaim for its unconventional presentation as well as its off-kilter, yet somewhat sad, approach to mental health during the pandemic.
Critics such as Jason Zinoman of The New York Times praised the special and defined it as “a tricky work that for all its boundary-crossing remains, in the end, a comedy in the spirit of neurotic, self-loathing stand-up.”
Lipscomb mental health counselor Ashley Dumas, who hasn’t seen the special, emphasizes that it is important and helpful that entertainers like Burnham are using their platforms to discuss issues of mental health.
“Sometimes, I think people laugh about serious things because it feels too hard or scary to have real conversations…,” said Dumas
Dumas hopes this program and other popular entertainment will help encourage people to admit their vulnerabilities and reach out for help.
Dumas is also the assistant director of Lipscomb University’s Counseling Center (UCC) and has been working with college students on mental health issues. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, but the majority of her career has been spent working with individuals, one-on-one.
“It’s really important for us at UCC to be prepared to work with the variety of issues we see our [Lipscomb] students deal with,” she said.
Dumas said, according to UCC data, more than 600 students from fall and spring semesters filled out appointment requests, listing reasons varying from anxiety to depression.
Since much of the world was on hold last year as people attempted to stay safe, college life was not what it used to be for many. The majority of students seeking out the UCC said their issues were related to the pandemic, and social isolation and online learning challenges were among the major stressors.
The UCC adhered to safety precautions and social distancing to even provide telehealth services for students in quarantine.
The pandemic has also been distressing for Dumas and others at the UCC. She said that to help cope with the isolation of the pandemic, she partakes in self-care activities.
From getting the proper amount of rest to eating healthy, Dumas emphasizes that meeting your basic needs can help level stress, especially during a pandemic.
Comedian Burnham, like others in the entertainment industry, was forced to isolate and halt his current projects.
In response, he created this special with ideas that range from calling family members to celebrate birthdays instead of blowing out candles to more weighty issues like the performer’s own encounters with suicidal thoughts.
The pandemic affected everyone in some fashion; it triggered feelings of loneliness, depression, and other types of emotional darkness. Burnham’s “Inside” is able to connect to all these people on their common ground.
Burnham sings in “How The World Works,” the fourth musical number which satirizes children’s music: “The secret is the world can only work when everything works together.”
(Bo Burnham’s Inside is available for streaming on Netflix and is rated TV-MA for Suicide and Language.)
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, know that you’re not alone and help is available.
The University Counseling Center provides Lipscomb students with free counseling services and is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
An initial appointment can be scheduled through the UCC’s website.
Walk-in appointments are also available in the event of immediate assistance.
Helplines such as the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-237-8255 and 911 are available.