The van life community is in mourning after losing a prominent member.
Instagram influencer Lee MacMillan died by suicide last Friday, according to a post shared on her Instagram page this week. “After living an extraordinary life, and fighting a brave battle with depression, our hearts are shattered to share that Lee took her life on Friday,” the post read. “She was the brightest light, a magnetic force of nature and was loved by so so many.”
MacMillan was reported missing before her death, according to a press release from the Santa Barbara, Calif., police department.
“If we can do one thing for Lee now, in the midst of this soul-crushing loss, it’s to spread the message that mental health is just as real as physical health, and that illness can strike anyone, no matter how unlikely they may seem,” the Instagram post continued. “It’s ok to not be ok, it’s ok to ask for help, it’s absolutely necessary to ask for help.”
The post points out that MacMillan was a mental health advocate. “She was candid and open about her own struggles. She was receiving help: from professionals, from family, from friends,” the post said. “She had support around her. She was not alone, she was not trying to fight this alone. And yet she still succumbed to this terrible illness. It is more nuanced than we can, or do, appreciate or understand.”
A post shared by Life with Lee ☾ (@lifewithlee)
MacMillan became famous after documenting her van travels with her ex-boyfriend, Max Bidstrup, and their dog, Occy, on their YouTube channel Max & Lee. After their breakup, MacMillan launched her own YouTube channel, Life with Lee, where she talked about mental health, her love life, and buying her own van.
Her last YouTube post was about cutting windows into her van with a rainstorm on the way.
MacMillan’s boyfriend, Jordan Chiu, shared a sweet tribute to her after her death. “You were a dream beyond my wildest dreams. You filled my heart up full to bursting and stretched it further than what I ever imagined was possible,” he wrote. “You were my person, my partner, my best friend. Every day with you was an adventure and I hope wherever you are you’ve found peace and snuggles. Rest easy puppy. I love you more than you will ever know.”
A post shared by jordan chiu (@jordanpchiu)
Chiu also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money in MacMillan’s name to donate toward mental health awareness and combat cyberbullying. “If even one person can be spared her fate, it will be worth it,” the GoFundMe says. It has currently raised $72,367.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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