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.

A Military Spouse Committed Suicide And Cyberbullies Are Partly To Blame

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.

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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.

A Military Spouse Committed Suicide And Cyberbullies Are Partly To Blame

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.

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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:

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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A Military Spouse Committed Suicide And Cyberbullies Are Partly To Blame

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Hard to report the cyber bullies to the admin, when they are one in the same. At our last base, a spouse relentlessly bullied others, but it was HER group, so no complaints could be made!

  2. I think this article is well written with great information. However I do not agree with its title. Someone telling her to “suck it up” may be insensitive, but it’s not bullying. Did they miss or ignore her reaching out for help and support, yes. That is sad and should be addressed. But putting this murder suicide on others, while saying mental health is real, is counter productive. The secret pages that are shaming wives should be removed. Still, the world will never be a perfect and constantly kind place. People need to tend their mental health so that they can cope with negative interactions in a responsible way.

    • YOU, Carol Segovia, are part of this problem. You NEVER tell anyone who is going through a hard time or having difficulties adjusting to military life to “suck it up”. I have also heard “you signed up for this life when you married…”. No Carol, they didn’t sign up for this life, they married someone they fell in love with who happened to be military. There is no basic training for military spouses is there. Carol is there an SOP for military spouses which spells out how to handle the emotional roller coaster military life carries with it? NO! “People need to tend their mental health”…well tell me Carol, how is mental health treated where you are? Mental health treatment for military dependents is sketchy at best. They have to rely on counselors on bases and usually don’t have an option to change if they don’t develop a rapport with that person. Can’t just go off base for services either. So before opening your mouth and shaming the victim here, go educate yourself on what really happens on post or base with the spouses and their interactions with one another because you really have NO CLUE.

      • The suicide rate for Military Caregivers had been identified over 12 years ago and had reached a concern then.
        I am presently a 14 years American Veteran’s wife, as well as, a 28 years Canadian Veteran’s wife and a Combat UN Expat Afghan and Sudan.
        In the Canadian military when I was first married, military marriage courses were mandatory. There was discussion about a lot of things that helped give a glimpse of the culture, but things have changed with the past 17 years. Longer and more tours, and situations becoming harder due to the tours that are happening now compared to 40 years ago.
        This is an excellently written article, and yes often the military expressions used on the veteran, often transfer to the spouse. I get it, and have lived with it BUT each relationship and people in those relationships are different and unique. Truly, if they couldn’t extend something kind and workable, why not just keep it to yourself. PLus really did they need to make fun of a person already struggling, are their self-esteems that low that they have to build it on a person struggling.
        Presently, I am sitting beside a hospital bed and my veteran at the moment does not even remember his passcode for his cell, which keeps music that comes his soul when the memories and physical pain attacks him. It’s not easy to love and remain strong when he can’t remember important dates of their marriage, or the address of his own home. Yet I have still found time to provide a kind word for someone that is struggling. Maybe that makes what we are going through have purpose beyond proving if we are tough enough.
        Just a few thoughts. Last time I checked we are ALL part of the same military family. I pray that family finds some peace in this sadness

    • That’s not ok to say
      I disagree completly
      You don’t tell people to “suck it up”
      OR any of the other stuff you just said
      What if someone said that to you
      And btw this is sad coming from a 13 yr old bc you are probably a grown up.

  3. Even though they say you don’t need a doctor permission for your first three visits, you have to find a therapists that will except TriCare without making you pay up front… who can afford that on military pay!? And the info the military shares (Therapy lists of Docs)most times are very outdated.

  4. There is no shortage of tragic news (daily) in the world, but his BROKE me.Weeping so deep that I can’t express my anguish. I’m a military spouse of retired (30+y) and I was brought on board after his first 10 years. My MIL always reminds me that I benefited from the “best years” without the struggles of the early years. I am sorry for this family, may God’s presence be evident to survivors.

    • @Heather: Who doesn’t accept that term? You? If someone kills themselves on purpose, it’s called committing suicide, not dying by suicide. Although, it’s very much all the same. Learn to accept others’ point of view, especially if the difference in what’s being said is all semantics.

  5. This breaks my heart. It doesn’t take much to be empathetic and supportive to another human in need. I wanted to mention another resource which was not mentioned, Crisis Text Line. You can reach out from their Facebook site, or text “Vets” to 741741 (For military family members, vets, and current military). You will be connected with a live crisis counselor 24/7.This is a not-for-profit organization that wants to help. It’s a free service for anyone to use. there is help out there. ❤️

  6. I wouod suggest changing the title. “Died by suicide” or “took her own life” is more neutral. “Committed Suicide” discourages people to come forward with suicidal thoughts because it implies criminal intent or parallels “committed sin”. When a person takes their own life they do not wish to die, they wish to end pain and suffering.

    • Hispanocs? Wow, No ma’am on pages like that there is no race that bullies as everybody does. There is no specific people that do… And i am HISPANIC so please learn at least how to call us if you are going to talk bad about us.

    • Well Juju, why to add racial bias and divide to the issue without really adding nothing constructive. Please take a moment to grow up.

  7. Ohhh… really… what about the damn veteran being harassed to the point of suicide? What about the person who is walking around like a damn saint with out a restraining order and with out remorse or an open police report because nobody will take one, as they say that there is no proof.

  8. And there are always Give an Hour (GAH) providers who donate mental health appointments for free. Giveanhour.org Resources are available. I feel terribly bad for her. As a former military spouse with young kids, now as a disabled veteran spouse and mental health provider to the military community, even one story this way is one too many.

  9. For the record Military One Source will not provide assistance to DoD Civilians when overseas. I was turned away when contacting them.

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