Developing meaningful indicators to track youth mental health (MH) is important to support the development and evaluation of responsive mental health promotion (MHP) initiatives that address the socio-economic determinants of youth MH. Development of relevant indicators is challenged, however, by the lack of knowledge regarding the relations among socio-economic factors and youth MH. Thirty diverse young people from a Canadian metropolitan area were engaged within a process of social praxis to explore their experiences of the inter-relationship between their socio-economic environments and their MH and their processes of seeking to realize their MH. Participants emphasized ‘needs’ as foundational to MH, whereas ‘wants’, driven by materialistic and wealth-oriented values and social norms, constrained their MH. Their reflections on the inter-relations among their MH and socio-economic processes highlight eight inter-related MH needs within the Canadian socio-economic context. In this paper, we present these needs and show how these needs, young people’s affective states, and their access to resources within co-evolving socio-economic processes (to enable their needs) illustrate the fundamental inter-relation between young people’s MH and socio-economic processes. We identify implications for measuring youth MH within MHP practice, including the importance of iterative indicator frameworks that include measures of young people’s access to resources to enable their MH needs and their degree of distress.

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