© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015. Within the wards of Britain’s high and medium secure mental health services, the needs of the female population differ significantly from those of their male counterparts. Although much smaller in number, the vast majority of female patients formally detained in secure services are young, Caucasian women, who are less likely to be prone to criminality and have a propensity to suffer from psychological distress. Many have experienced extensive trauma and exhibit both internally and externally driven violence. Drawn from the women’s own narratives and analysed using a descriptive phenomenological approach, the findings provide the basic structure for a new ‘humanistic conceptual framework for care’ which could be used by mental health practitioners to both inform and structure the daily provision of care and to better understand the physical and mental health needs of this unique patient group within secure mental health services.