This Woman Set Up A Wishlist For Her Mental Health Ward. The Parcels Piled In

When Cat McKeever was sectioned, she had regular visits from friends and family. Noticing that other inpatients weren't so lucky, she wanted to do something to help.
HuffPost / Getty Images

“You don’t prepare for being sectioned,” Cat McKeever tells me. “You arrive in your pyjamas or in your clothes, and that’s all you have.”

In March this year, at the age of 27, she spent a month in a mental health inpatient ward after reaching crisis point. McKeever, who has bipolar disorder, says she spent 30 hours in A&E before being moved to a psychiatric ward at Springfield Hospital, south London. It was her first time being sectioned.

She admits she was “lucky” because the hospital was 10 minutes from her home and loved ones. In contrast, many people are moved miles away due to shortages of hospital beds. It’s been reported that children and young people are receiving treatment as far as 285 miles away from home.

During her time as an inpatient, McKeever’s partner and friends brought her blankets, food and cuddly toys – “when you’re in that setting you need home comforts, something that feels nice, something that soothes you,” she says.

But she soon realised she was in a rare situation. Other people in the hospital barely had any visitors. One woman, she notes, didn’t even have a bra and had nobody to bring her one. Another, who had been sectioned for months, desperately wanted to get a haircut but didn’t have the funds.

Cat McKeever
Cat McKeever

“I seemed to be the only person getting this kind of support in a ward of 20 people of all ages – some had been there for months, some had been there just a few days,” she says. “Their parents lived in Scotland, or they didn’t have a partner, or they were on their own.”

At the same time, she was being inundated with messages from friends asking how they could help, so she decided to ask them to help the other inpatients instead.

From inside the ward, she set up a JustGiving page to raise money. She tells HuffPost UK that she thought she might be able to raise £50 at most, but donations soon rocketed to £600.

“My idea was that if someone needed to get a haircut, they could take £20, or if someone needed money for a bus [some inpatients are allowed to leave for short periods at a time], they could have that,” she explains.

But McKeever, now 28, says fundraising wasn’t the most effective route to take. Not long after the JustGiving page took off, she decided to set up an Amazon wishlist instead so that her friends (and total strangers) could buy essentials for other in-patients on the ward – blankets, nice toiletries, anything that could provide comfort during what can be a scary time. “I realised that rather than money, it was objects that are the most precious,” she says.

Discussing her own experience, she describes how it could be quite boring on the ward. That’s not the fault of staff, or the NHS, she says. “The staff try their best, they really do.” McKeever blames government cuts and the huge gap in funding for mental health services compared to provision for physical health.

According to the NHS’s 10-year plan, at least £2.3bn a year will be ring-fenced to improve mental health services on the NHS by 2023-24 – that’s from an overall funding pot of around £27bn. “It doesn’t help when everyone is bored – people are just lying around, you don’t exercise, you become more depressed, and there’s more possibility of outbursts,” she adds.

Activities provided on the ward at Springfield include mindfulness, exercise, games, art and crafts, and access to the news, overseen by specialist mental health occupational therapists and activity co-coordinators, a spokesperson for South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust tells HuffPost UK.

When setting up the wishlist, McKeever decided to ask around the ward to see if there was anything in particular people would like to receive – one person asked her for a different type of tea: peppermint, rather than English breakfast. Someone else said they’d love a colouring book. Another wanted a gentler soap and moisturiser. “These are so easily solved,” says McKeever.

Amazon parcels
Cat McKeever
Amazon parcels

Within a few days of setting up the wishlist, the mental health ward was inundated with parcels. There were books, magazines, boxes of posh tea bags, blankets, toiletries, delicious biscuits and more. The patients staying on the ward couldn’t believe what they were seeing – and McKeever says the whole process was crucial to her own recovery, too. “It gave me a real focus. I was seeing people break down in tears because they received a lavender gift set, and they hadn’t slept properly in years,” she recalls.

The books were put out in the main living part of the ward, which “totally transformed” the atmosphere. Where once people would sit quietly, or have hushed conversations, it was now a hive of activity. “There was excitement, people were sitting reading, they were telling jokes to each other, and communicating,” says McKeever. “We sat around eating Waitrose biscuits and drinking nice tea. It was like we were in the Ritz. It brought me to tears.”

Springfield Hospital looked a little brighter thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Cat McKeever
Springfield Hospital looked a little brighter thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Since leaving hospital, McKeever, who works as an actor, has realised an idea this simple could work more widely – she’s already supporting three other wards at the same hospital with her venture Wishlists4Wards, which she has set up while continuing to manage her own mental health and treatment. She hopes people can support the project, particularly over the Christmas period.

“There are many charities for elderly people, homeless people and sick children at Christmas but I think a spotlight needs to be shone on the forgotten people living with mental illness over the holidays,” she says. “This is why this project and any others like it are so vital.”

The initiative put “many smiles on faces”, according to a spokesperson for Springfield Hospital, while a member of staff on the ward applauded McKeever’s innovative and resourceful idea, calling it “brilliant”, and welcomed “the kindness shown by all those who contributed to this wonderful initiative”.

More information about Wishlist4Wards can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on