The absence of mental illness does not mean someone has flourishing mental health. This has been a common theme I have encountered lately, and is also one of the major focal points of positive psychology.
The idea of optimal functioning involves more than the absence of illness, and extends to our experience of positive emotions, using positive character traits, and developing positive institutions.
The development of positive institutions is a major factor in a community’s level of mental health.
Often we view psychological well-being at the individual level, without considering the impact of the community we live in. Though we don’t live in a vacuum separated from the surrounding environment. Our environment has a major impact on our development.
This is similar to Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory, which explains how our development and overall functioning comes from many levels of socialization, such as direct parents and family to our overall culture.
In this sense the policies and institutions in a given community have a major impact on the well-being of the individuals and the development of future generations.