Poor mental health is a leading contributor to the burden of disease experienced by adolescents, including in resource constrained settings. However, little is known about how adolescents in these countries conceptualise mental health and its determinants which is essential to informing effective responses. This study aimed to explore how adolescents in Indonesia (a populous and rapidly developing country) conceptualise mental health and what they identify as important determinants. Eight focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 86 Indonesian adolescents (aged 16-18 years), sampled from schools and community settings from Jakarta and South Sulawesi. FGDs were recorded, transcribed, translated and thematically analysed. Mental health was recognised as a significant concern by adolescents in Indonesia. Good mental health was conceptualised as emotional wellbeing and happiness. By contrast, poor mental health was predominantly described in terms of substantial mental illness manifesting as behavioural and physical disturbance. Further, poor mental health only happened to ‘other’ people, with stigmatising views prevalent. Absent from the discussions were common symptoms of poor mental health (stress, loneliness, poor sleep) and common mental disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety) or a conceptualisation that reflected poor mental health to be a normal human experience. Discussions around determinants of poor mental health suggested that family connections (particularly with parents), school pressures, and adverse exposures on social media were important drivers of poor mental health, with religion also surfacing as an important determinant. In highlighting mental health as an important issue for Indonesian adolescents, this study provides a foundation for targeted responses.
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