Wish is a national charity that was set up in 1987 by Prue Stevenson, Terri Simpson and Kimberley Andrews. At the time, Prue was working in the Education Department at HMP Holloway in London. She became concerned about the high number of women whose mental health deteriorated to such an extent that they were transferred to the High Secure Hospitals, then known as Special Hospitals. Terri and Kim were former patients who had spent many years in High Secure hospitals. Female patients in these hospitals were often subjected to appalling and degrading conditions, and many didn’t require such a high level of security.
The three women got together to form Wish with the aim of supporting women still in Special Hospitals and prison psychiatric units, and to campaign to change policy and attitudes. The first office was based in London, initially serving Broadmoor and HMP Holloway, and over time branches were set up in the Midlands to serve Rampton and in the North to serve Ashworth. The women’s services at Ashworth and Broadmoor have since closed, resulting in more women being moved to lower, more appropriate, levels of security. Wish’s work to emphasise the importance of gender and the different needs of women contributed to the Department of Health strategy for women’s mental health, titled ‘Into the Mainstream’.
Today, Wish works with women at all levels of security, as well as in prisons and in the community. Over two decades after it was founded, Wish is now returning to its campaigning roots, as well as continuing to provide independent advocacy and emotional support to women with mental health needs in secure settings and in the community.