Milesh Hamlai

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2013

Citation

This profile was prepared when Milesh Hamlai was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
It is common practice for families in India to bring mentally ill family members to religious places such as temples and dargahs, for faith healing. This practice is often done in closed compounds, and excluded from modern mental health systems. Milesh turns faith healers into allies and includes them as key stakeholders in community mental health care.

Milesh brings two unusual stakeholders together—government district mental hospitals and religious faith healers—to provide psychiatric, therapeutic, and medical services to the mentally ill. He trains faith healers to perform the primary diagnosis of mental illness and modern and humane methods of treatment. Milesh also engages the government district mental hospital to set up a clinic on the premises of the temple or mosque to provide free care and services. In addition, Milesh works with various stakeholders in the community, such as teachers and the families of the mentally ill; training them to identify and support the mentally ill through treatment, for a comprehensive community-based rehabilitation program.

Milesh is increasing access for the mentally ill to psychiatric treatment, and through the training and awareness of faith healers, he is also ending abuse of the mentally ill often perpetrated by religious priests in the name of faith healing. Milesh is working to end traditional religious practices of mental health treatment, such as chaining and whipping, and is reducing superstitious beliefs among families.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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