What can bugs teach us about mental health?

You’ll have to stick with me on this one, but I promise… a quick fly by a little bit of science is worth it.

The topic was first introduced by someone on our Integrated Case Management team who managed to creep her new favourite word into a conversation, “resilin”. Resilin, as it turns out, is a specific type of protein found in insects and other anthropods. It’s characterized by its rubber-like elasticity. Thus, it’s what gives some insect wings their strong flexibility and some insect legs their incredible bounce.

The structure of resilin is fascinating, too. In its normal state, it kind of looks like a bit of a mess – a random, wriggly, and worm-like pile of… something. But apply a bit of stress, and you’ll soon discover that the structure was perfectly set up to do its job. It lines up to efficiently store and transfer the energy, and then it relaxes back to its normal state.

It goes without saying that resilin can play such an important role throughout the entire lifetime of a bug!

Okay, enough buzzing around the science, let’s get to the point

Perhaps you can already see where this is going. But if not, here’s a big clue: the word “resilin” comes from the same Latin root for the word “resiliency”.

Now, “resilience” is an incredibly important topic for us, particularly in our Trauma-Informed approach to supporting the youth who come to us for help. Across our entire continuum of care, we try to support young people to build up their resiliency as a means of conquering challenges and stresses in their daily life.

But what, exactly, is “resiliency”? It’s a person’s unique, one-of-a-kind bounce.

That compound that helps insects jump is, in a metaphorical sense, somewhere in all of us in its own special way. So, here at Covenant House Vancouver, one of the things we do when serving young people is help them uncover it until they have the power they need to:

  • bounce back from the trauma that has shaped them, and
  • bounce forward confidently with the next steps necessary for a brighter and more positive future

We hope that the resiliency we help build will sustain them throughout their entire life.

Yes, this “bounce” will look different in different people, just like how it looks a bit different from insect to insect. At first, it might be hidden in what seems like a messy pile of…something, but it’s there. And once it’s unearthed, when stresses come along it’ll line up efficiently and bounce and relax perfectly every time.