Using complex systems mapping to build a strategic public health response to mental health in England

Jude Stansfield*, Nick Cavill, Louise Marshall, Claire Robson, Harry Rutter

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: This paper aims to use systems mapping as a tool to develop an organisation-wide approach to public mental health to inform strategic direction within a national public health agency. Design/methodology/approach: Two workshops were facilitated with internal staff from a wide range of public health policy teams working in small groups to produce paper-based maps. These were collated and refined by the project team and digitised. Findings: The approach engaged a range of teams in forming a shared understanding and producing a complex system map of the influences on population mental health and well-being, where current policy initiatives were addressing them and what the gaps and priorities were. Participants valued the approach which led to further study and organisational commitment to the whole system working as part of national public mental health strategy. Research limitations/implications: The approach was limited to internal stakeholders and wider engagement with other sectors and community members would help further the application of complex system approaches to public mental health. Originality/value: It was a valuable process for developing a whole-organisation approach and stimulating thinking and practice in complex system approaches. The paper provides a practical example of how to apply systems mapping and its benefits for organising public mental health practice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)286-297
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Public Mental Health
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021, Jude Stansfield, Nick Cavill, Louise Marshall, Claire Robson and Harry Rutter.


    • Complexity
    • Mapping
    • Strategy
    • Systems thinking


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