Anica Mikus Kos – Slovenia

Linked with our presentation of The Medical Network for Social Reconstruction in the Former Yugoslavia, and of The Scope and Benefits of Youth Volunteering.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “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 – Slovenia

She works for the Foundation “Together,” a Regional Center for the Psychosocial Well-Being of Children.

Read first this text about Community based approaches to mental health protection in the post war situation from Anica Mikus Kos.

Read also Case Study: Therapeutic Activities in Schools for Refugee Children in Slovenia (1992-1995).

An Interview on Slovenia News.

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.Anica Mikus Kos was born in Yugoslavia in 1935 to a Slovenian father and a Croatian-Jewish mother. As a child she spent three years with the Partisan army in Croatia, which was fighting against the Nazis. After the end of the Second World War in 1945, she moved with her parents to Ljubljana, Slovenia. After completing her secondary education, she studied medicine, specializing in pediatrics and psychiatry. She spent her professional career as a child psychiatrist and held positions as Head of the Department of Child Psychiatry at the Ljubljana University Pediatric Clinic and Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at Ljubljana University. For the last 16 years of her professional career, she served as Director of the Ljubljana Counseling Center for Children, Adolescents and Parents.

Since her retirement in 1994, she has devoted herself to psychosocial help for children affected by war and post-conflict adversities. She has designed programs and worked as a trainer in numerous programs and regions, including Bosnia and Herzegovina both during and after the war, in Macedonia with Kosovan refugees, in Kosovo, in Ingushetia with Chechen refugees, in Georgia, and in Iraq. She is also preparing a program of assistance for schools in North Ossetia.
Her childhood experiences during the Second World War have affected her approach to working with children from conflict zones. From the age of seven to ten, she was a witness to the terrible events typical of war: bombings, killings, combat and violence. However, these experiences also provided her with a basis for optimism: she found that in the face of the brutality of war, people responded with positive actions to its destructiveness. Her war-time experience led her to discover the capacity of human resilience, and the ability of people to cope with traumatic experiences without the help of psychologists or psychiatrists. Her later adult professional activities with war-affected children have been based on her experiences as a child during the war.

When refugees from Croatia, and later more than 70,000 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, came to Slovenia, Dr. Mikus Kos devoted most of her life to helping these war refugees. With her unique philosophy and experience, she has helped thousands of children and their parents. When Bosnian children were not accepted in Slovenian schools, Dr. Mikus Kos helped organize Bosnian teachers, who were also refugees, to run schools for their children. Thanks to her belief in the capacities of refugees and teachers, thousands of children finished school and received psychosocial assistance.
She also organized a wide range of training courses and seminars to empower refugee teachers to work and has helped them overcome their own traumas and losses. Hundreds of volunteers have been organized to work with children and their parents. This network built with her help has been of vital importance to many war refugees.

According to the vision of Dr. Mkus Kos, the role of mental health professionals in war-related and other crisis situations is to transfer their knowledge and experience to the people who contribute to the quality of the child’s life (parents, teachers, primary health care workers, volunteers, etc), and to support and energize these networks. In mass catastrophies of any nature, mental health workers can provide direct help to only a very small number of severely disturbed children. On the other hand, low-profile psychosocial support from non-mental health professionals can have a more wide-ranging and tremendous protective and remedial role that increases children’s coping abilities.
During her professional career Dr. Mkus Kos has placed a high value on cooperation with schools and teachers. She recognizes their importance in the psychosocial development of children and in the protection of harmed children or children at risk. This has resulted in the development of many school-based psychosocial programs for children affected by war.

A central tenet of Dr. Mikus Kos’s work is that while suffering and permanent memories are unavoidable outcomes of the experience of war, surviving war should not be treated in the same manner as other psychological disturbances. Dr. Mikus Kos strongly advocates the view that in spite of suffering and painful memories, the majority of children will not be psychologically disturbed because of their war experiences and losses. She argues that statements by mental health professionals that condemn the majority of children who have gone through war to be psychologically harmed for the rest of their life are scientifically unproven and potentially damaging. Such statements can contribute to a process of learned helplessness and a self-fulfilling prophecy of long-lasting psychological problems.

Dr. Mikus Kos’s 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 into contact with children and their parents are central in providing children with exposure to positive human relationships. (Read this on this page of 1000peacewomen).

links:

Peace Through Health: Learning from Action;

Together Foundation, in english and slovenian;

Abstract sur: Intervention publiée sous le titre “Le pédopsychiatre et la protection de la santé mentale des enfants touchés par les conflits armés”, dans un ouvrage sous la direction de Furtos J., Laval C., Ed. ERES, dernier trimestre 2005;

FMR3review.

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