A Note from the Editor: It has been brought to our attention that the family of Tristen Watson have asked that this article no longer be shared on social media. Our goal with this article was not to “gossip” about a tragedy in the military community but rather to learn and help prevent any other military spouse from experiencing cyberbullying as well as provide resources to military spouses if they are struggling with mental health. Out of respect to the family, we have edited some of the information in the post to better reflect the circumstances surrounding her tragic death while still highlighting cyberbullying in the military community. We do recognize that outlying mental health plays a significant role for anyone who is struggling with suicide and we deeply apologize to the Watson family for any additional distress this article may have brought them. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or utilize their chat option. If you would like to support the Watson family during this difficult time, please visit their GoFundMe.
Recent reports of a Fort Carson military spouse’s death has shaken the military spouse community and have opened the discussion of military spouse mental health, military spouse suicides, and cyberbullying in the military spouse community.
You can support the Watson family by contributing to their GoFundMe here
Military Spouse Suicides
No matter the service member’s rank or the branch of the Armed Services to which you belong we have all seen and felt firsthand the difficulties of military life. PCSing, deployments, trainings, service member PTSD, financial difficulties, and many other factors are hard things to deal with on top of regular daily stressors. These lifestyle circumstances can make living with a disease like depression or other mental health issues exacerbate.
Only recently did the Department of Defense begin collecting data on rates of suicide among military spouses and dependents. The first amount of data was collected in 2017, and it was reported there were 123 military spouses suicides that year. Seventeen of those spouses were active duty military (dual-military couples) while the rest were civilian military spouses. An additional 63 military dependents also committed suicide. The rate is higher for spouses of active duty members, coming in at 13.2 deaths per 100,000.
Although the report showed that the rate of military spouse suicides is less than the national average for civilians, it raises questions about whether or not the role of military life plays a part in dependent suicides, and how the military can further serve those families who are experiencing difficulties in their lives or who are struggling with mental help.
The Role of Facebook Groups for Military Spouses
Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has grown to become a place where many military spouses go to ask questions about military life. There are thousands of Facebook groups for military spouses, and it’s not hard to find yourself in one that seems to be a breeding ground of cyberbullying. Many young military spouses today grew up with some form of social media, so they often turn to things like Facebook groups for information and advice but many times a simple question can turn into a bashing session against the person asking the question.
Military life is unique in that we often cannot turn to family for help in some situations, and frequent moves make it difficult to create strong bonds of trust and friendship with other military spouses. That is why many of us turn to Facebook groups to help us with things that only other military spouses can understand- what it’s like a new duty station, ways to save money at the commissary, childcare help, marriage problems, financial problems, simple venting sessions because this life is hard, and much more. Some of the people in the groups are helpful, offering advice and answering questions as best they can. And then there are others, who effectively become keyboard bullies, telling military spouses to “suck it up” or that they are “stupid” for staying with their service member.
RELATED: Why You Need an Online Sisterhood
Some military spouse Facebook groups are dedicated to trolling women online. Spouses will secretly take photos or videos of other spouses and then post on these groups with the sole purpose to make fun of them. They will call them names and judge their clothes, their parenting, and their weight. These groups are designed to breed hate and bullying, but no one seems to be doing anything to stop them.
Where Military Spouses Can Get Help
Facebook groups can serve a wonderful purpose for many military spouses. There are safe groups that are monitored for bullying, and there are women out there who will listen to you vent, answer your questions, give you advice, and point you in the right direction of services you might need or want. The right Facebook group can be extremely helpful and beneficial, and in all honesty, most military spouses will have more information up their sleeve than official sources. Here are some Facebook groups that are heavily monitored for bullying and are safe for military spouses of every branch and every rank to vent, ask questions, and seek advice or help. You can also often find military spouse Facebook groups based on your duty station, but you must be careful and examine the kind of things that are being discussed and allowed in that group:
- Daily Mom Military:
- Dependa Strong
- Military Spouse Support Group
- InDependent Virtual and InDependent Wellness Lounge
If you or someone you know needs help, whether it be with mental health issues or general military life struggles, please contact one of the resources below:
- Visit Military OneSource or call 1-800-342-9647
- Counseling and mental health services are covered by TRICARE. Your first three visits to a mental health provider are covered without a referral. After that, simply ask your counselor or mental health professional for a referral. You or your spouse cannot be negatively impacted by you or them seeing a mental health provider.
- Health & Wellness Coaching with Changing Tides Coaching– a Holistic Nurse Health and Wellness Coach and that specializes in helping military spouses and families. She offers FREE sessions to any spouse seeking immediate needs. Most of the time a spouse can reach and speak to her prior to getting an appointment with a therapist. She is willing to coach them until they are able to get an appointment
- If you are in a crisis, please call the Veterans and Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1.
- If you are grieving the death of an active duty service member or dependent, contact TAPS or call 1-800-959-8277.
Military life is hard. Even the sanest and stable person can struggle with this lifestyle. Mental health is a real issue and one that should not be ignored no matter if you are a civilian or a military dependent. Facebook groups can be beneficial for military spouses to gain valuable insight and information, but only if they are not a breeding ground for bullies. Report any bullying you see on Facebook to the admins of the group and to Facebook immediately.
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