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


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

Funding Information:
The project was partly funded by The Health Foundation.

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


  • Complexity
  • Mapping
  • Strategy
  • Systems thinking


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