Teen Mental Health Support in Indonesia


Teenagers, adolescents, and other young people are especially vulnerable to mental health issues. Adolescence is a time of change, identity searching, and mental and physical development. Young people’s mental health during their teenage years can also affect their psychological well-being later on in life, as they move into adulthood. Protecting the mental health of young people is fundamental.

Despite the importance of specialist mental healthcare for young people, there is a stark lack of child and adolescent psychiatry in Indonesia. While borderline personality disorder and eating disorders are rapidly rising across the country, there are still no specialist care units to support young people to overcome the challenges they face.

This blog explores some of the mental health concerns that affect young people in Indonesia today and explains the importance of specialist care for teenagers and adolescents. It also offers information on how parents can use online and residential services to support young people in the absence of local healthcare services.

Why Do Young People Need Specialised Mental Health Support?

Adolescence and early adulthood are unique times in a young person’s life. They involve distinct life experiences, such as moving through school and further education, taking exams, or looking for work. Young people are also developing a sense of self and identity and changing their support systems as they move from childhood to adult life. At the same time, young people’s brains are not fully developed until the mid-20s. This means that teenagers and adolescents may experience mental health conditions in a different way to adults – and respond differently to treatment.

There’s a widespread consensus amongst experts that adolescents require youth-friendly services that reflect their cultural and developmental needs. Young people may be more likely to:

  • be using mental health services for the first time
  • have families and friends who are encountering mental health services for the first time
  • be treatment-naïve
  • live with more than one mental health condition, often including substance use
  • be a diverse group with varying courses of illness
  • be more likely to have relapses because of a lack of knowledge about how to manage their condition
  • be more likely to act impulsively, including self-harm and disruptive behaviour

Specialist youth services are sensitive to these needs and adapt treatment programs and approaches to meet them. Youth services also focus on creating an environment that is welcoming to young people rather than stigmatising, building an atmosphere where young people want to begin and continue treatment.

Eating Disorders and BPD Among Young People in Indonesia

Young people in Indonesia may be affected by many different mental health concerns, from mood disorders like anxiety and depression to personality disorders or conduct problems. Here, we’ll take a look at two types of disorders that usually begin during adolescence: eating disorders and borderline personality disorder.

In recent years, eating disorders among young people have been increasing in Indonesia. One study found that as many as 37.6% of adolescents in Jakarta may show traits of anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Other research showed that 7.5% of university students were at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Young people with eating disorders may use food to cope with their emotions or place their self-worth in their body shape or weight. Eating disorders can look very different from one young person to another: teenagers and adolescents may restrict their diet, experience cycles of binging and purging, or feel like they are not in control of eating. Eating problems are often underpinned and maintained by underlying issues such as perfectionism, interpersonal difficulties, and low self-esteem.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also becoming more common in Indonesia and other Asian countries. While awareness of the condition is still low – and research in the region lacking – some recent studies have explored the presence of borderline personality behaviours and found that the causes of the condition (such as childhood adversity) may be similar to those in Western countries.

Teenagers, adolescents, and young adults with BPD may experience challenges in the way they relate to themselves and the world around them. Some common BPD traits include an unstable sense of self, unclear or changing identity, difficult interpersonal relationships, chronic feelings of emptiness, and a fear of abandonment. Young people with BPD often feel very intense and quickly changing emotions, which they may respond to with impulsive actions.

BPD and eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that require specialist care: but it’s important for young people and their families to remember that they’re not alone. There are several treatment methods available to help teenagers and adolescents with eating disorders recover from the condition, addressing underlying issues to achieve lasting change. For young people with BPD, therapy, social work, and other approaches can support them to manage and reduce symptoms, build stronger relationships, and live fulfilling lives.

Where Can I Access Support?

While both eating disorders and borderline personality disorders are treatable, the specialist support that young people require and deserve isn’t available everywhere. If there are no suitable treatment services in your area, you might want to explore online or residential treatment options for your child.

Online Support

Online treatment programs may be a good option for young people who are at a low risk of harm to themselves. Online services can provide consultations, assessments, individual and group therapy, family therapy, and other treatment approaches. 

At The Wave Clinic, we offer specialist online support for young people, focusing on full recovery and positive growth. Our online services draw on expertise in child, teenage, and adolescent health from all over the world, ensuring young people receive the best possible treatment for their needs. We’re dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young people in every part of the globe.

Residential Programs

For young people with more complex problems, online services can’t provide the close, professional support and care that they need to stay safe as they recover. In these cases, residential programs can offer a nurturing, safe, and supportive environment where they will be surrounded by expert care, combining different kinds of support that address the needs of the whole person.

The Wave Clinic offers residential programs that combine therapeutic boarding with education, supporting young people to reconnect with themselves, discover their passions, and develop the skills they need to follow their dreams. We combine specialist clinical care with vocational learning, exciting experiences, community work, and a gap year exploration, helping young people build their self-esteem and look to a better future.

Our clinic supports different levels of care, depending on each young person’s needs. For young people at the highest risk, we provide intensive care beds and round-the-clock monitoring. As they recover, young people can move out of these spaces and back into our main house to continue the rest of their program.

The Wave Clinic: Setting the Global Standard for Young People’s Mental Health Support

At the Wave Clinic, we set the standard for teenage and adolescent mental health care worldwide. Situated in Malaysia, our programs offer unequalled expertise and trauma-focused support, guided by our values of inclusivity, fairness, and exemplary treatment for all young people, regardless of their presenting issues.

We understand the importance of early intervention for young people to change difficult everyday realities into a positive journey of growth and discovery. We offer diagnosis without labels and value the role that a young person’s family can play in their treatment.

If you’re living in Indonesia, Malaysia, or any other place in the world, reach out to us today. Our doors are open.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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