Wish has been a voice for women’s mental health ever since it was first established in 1987. It is the only national, user-led charity that works with women with mental health needs in prison, hospital and the community.
Prue Stevenson, Terri Simpson and Kimberley Andrews set up Wish after Prue, who was working in the Education Department at HMP Holloway at the time, 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.
Terri and Kim were former patients who had spent many years in these High Secure hospitals, so the three women came together to campaign to change policy and attitudes. They particularly worked to support the women still in Secure Hospitals and prison psychiatric units, with Wish initially standing for Women In Secure Hospitals, though our work has since expanded.
Wish was the first organisation that made gender part of the wider mental health strategy. In 1999, Wish produced an analysis of gender differences in the offending and social profiles of patients in high secure care. The report Defining Gender Issues: Redefining Women’s Services showed how to structure services for women with security and safety needs. This research helped lead High Secure Hospitals to set up Women’s Directorates, and resulted in them providing more gender sensitive services.
Since then, Wish has been contributing to all major policy development in relation to women’s mental health and other relevant policy areas. This includes policy by the Ministry of Justice, Equality Office, NICE, CEDAW, and our work also helped inform the Department of Health’s strategy for women’s mental health: Into the Mainstream, and emphasised the importance of gender.
In the work that we do, we are unique in our long-term commitment to each individual, meaning the charity provides independent advocacy, emotional support and practical guidance at all stages of a woman’s journey through the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems.
Today, over three decades after our charity was founded, Wish still work to increase women’s participation in the services they receive, and we have returned to our campaigning roots with the creation of our Women’s Mental Health Network. This Network is a partnership of organisations across sectors to give women with mental health needs a voice and works as a campaigning platform to drive forward change.
In all we do, including the Network, we actively work to ensure that more power lies with women at both a service and organisational level. We do not seek to define women by their past, but meet women where they are.