How to deal with the trauma of the Medibank cyber breach | Andrea Szasz

MMillions of Australians feel violated as a result of the Medibank cyber breach. The weaponization of private health information can be deeply traumatic, especially for those whose sensitive health information has been made public.

The promise of confidentiality and professional intimacy helps us feel safe enough to undergo mental health or other medical treatment. However, publicly sharing private information such as details of mental health issues, addictions, STIs or past abortions can be shameful and very traumatic. It can look like a real betrayal and a breach of personal security.

Knowing that sensitive information is circulating on the dark web for criminals to use against us can also lead to feelings of pressure to forcibly disclose private and personal information and experiences to family, friends and colleagues – before the criminals leak it to us.

Victims of this horrific breach of privacy need to know that they did nothing wrong. It is often difficult to seek help and receive treatment when suffering from a violation like this. However, seeking support to cope is a courageous and courageous act.

So what can you do if you are among those affected by this cyberattack and feel overwhelmed, helpless, violated and perhaps ashamed?

Turn off the shame with empathy

The first step is to recognize that you are not alone and that your feelings are valid. Millions of people face this violation. Find someone you can trust and talk about it. As Dr. Brené Brown says, “If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and spray it with empathy, it can’t survive.

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Another empath can be a loving spouse, friend, mentor, or professional. Most workplaces offer Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services and there are free mental health helplines that you can contact. He might feel that with the information already available, all hope is lost. Know that this is not the case and seek help if you feel this way.

How to answer questions

How do you handle questions from family members and loved ones who may have discovered something confronting or very personal about you via this heinous cyberattack? Remember that you have the right to privacy and can disclose as much or as little as you want.

For example, if a family member found out that you were seeing a psychologist because of depression and anxiety, they might be concerned and tell you about it. You have the right to say that you are not ready or able to talk about it; but reassure them that you are getting help. Then, when you’re ready, you might feel like you can share more. You can also designate a friend or family member to answer your questions until you feel ready. This person can protect you while you find the best way to handle the questions and the consequences.

Take back control

This breach of privacy may have affected your sense of security, but there are ways to regain your sense of control. Besides all the necessary practical steps you can take to protect your privacy or your remaining personal data, there are some self-care techniques you can implement:

  • Practicing simple but effective breathing techniques can reduce the effect of fear and anxiety. For example, inhaling for three seconds through your nose and exhaling through your mouth for five seconds will help activate the calming part of your nervous system.

  • Normalizing and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings can reduce their intensity. It is a perfectly acceptable reaction to feel fear, anger, outrage and even shame because of this horrific event.

  • Catching yourself and moving away from catastrophic thoughts and beliefs will reduce the lasting effects. It’s a terrible thing that happened to you, but that doesn’t mean those bad things will always happen to you.

In Australia, support is available from Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 and MensLine on 1300 789 978. In the UK, the charity Mind is available on 0300 123 3393 and Childline at 0800 1111. In the United States, Mental Health America is available at 800-273-8255

Andrea Szasz is a psychotherapist and program director at South Pacific Private, a mental health, trauma and addiction treatment center

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