Slowenien: Anica Mikus Kos

The role of mental health professionals in war-related situations is to transfer knowledge and experience to parents, teachers, and others who are working to improve the quality of a child’s life.

— Anica Mikus Kos

Dr. Mikus Kos, pediatrician and child psychologist, has provided assistance to refugee children from conflict zones in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Ingushetia, Georgia, and Iraq. When refugees from the Balkan conflict came to Slovenia, she helped thousands of children and their parents. Since these children were not accepted in Slovenian schools, Dr. Mikus Kos helped organize refugee teachers to run schools for them. Thanks to her belief in the capacities of refugees, thousands of children have finished school and received psychosocial assistance.

Born in Yugoslavia in 1935, Anica Mikus Kos, as a child, was a witness to the terrible events of World War II: bombings, killings, and violence. These experiences also provided her with a basis for optimism: in the face of the brutality of war, people responded with positive actions. She discovered the capacity of human resiliency and the ability of people to cope with traumatic experiences. Her professional activities with war-affected children are based on her experiences as a child during the war. A central tenet of Dr. Mikus Kos’ work is that while suffering and painful memories are unavoidable outcomes of the experience of war, surviving war should not be treated the same way as other psychological disturbances. She strongly advocates the view that, in spite of suffering and painful memories, most children will not be permanently psychologically disturbed because of their war experiences and losses. A pediatrician and child psychologist herself, she argues that statements by mental health professionals, who condemn children who have gone through war to be psychologically harmed for the rest of their lives, contribute to learned helplessness and a self-fulfilling prophecy of long-lasting psychological problems. She believes that children can be empowered to overcome their trauma and lead fulfilling lives. Dr. Mikus Kos’ experience as a child during war time has taught her the importance of kindness and compassion in a child’s environment. The main goal of her programs is to provide children with positive experiences that will counteract the negative experiences of war by activating and empowering children’s social networks. She believes that the role of teachers, volunteers, and primary health care workers that come in contact with children and their parents are central in providing children with exposure to positive human relationships.

Foundation "Together," Regional Center for the Psychosocial Well-Being of Children