This paper presents an account of a project that explored Gujarati Hindu young people’s and their parents’ understanding of the terms ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ through the use of semi-structured interviews. The sample of 15 parents and 15 young people was selected from an inner city community with a large minority ethnic population in which Gujaratis formed the largest social group in that setting. Thematic analysis identified three key themes: understanding the terms mental health and mental illness; causes of mental health problems; and sociocultural factors and mental health. These themes showed that neither the young people nor their parents had a consistent understanding of the terms ‘mental health’ or ‘mental illness’. There was also confusion between these terms and that of ‘learning disability’. A range of views was presented so it is difficult to conclude that the Gujarati Hindus conceptualise mental health or mental illness in any specific way. It is highly possible that the findings of this study would have been similar for other ethnic groups with similar socio-economic backgrounds. The findings indicate that before patients and communities can be involved in child and adolescent service planning and development, there is considerable work that needs to be undertaken to establish a shared understanding of key terms such as ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’.