Lee died by suicide (Picture: Instagram)
Van life influencer Lee MacMillan has died by suicide aged 28.
The social media star, known for documenting her travel adventures and road trips in her van, was hit and killed by an Amtrak train in Santa Barbara last Friday after going missing.
On March 26, Santa Barbara police put out a press release stating that Lee had left her house without her wallet, keys, cellphone, ID or vehicle, and said: ‘MacMillan suffers from depression and has been expressing suicidal ideation for the last month. MacMillan made specific statements recently which indicate she may be intending to harm herself. ‘
Sadly, on March 29, it was confirmed that Lee was the previously unidentified woman in a train fatality that occurred on March 26.
An Instagram post shared to both Lee’s personal page and the @maxandlee_ page she shared with ex-boyfriend Bidstrup said that the star had been fighting a battle with depression.
It read: ‘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. She was the brightest light, a magnetic force of nature and was loved by so so many.
‘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. It’s ok to not be ok, it’s ok to ask for help, it’s absolutely necessary to ask for help.
‘Lee was an advocate for mental health. She was candid and open about her own struggles. She was receiving help: from professionals, from family, from friends. 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.
‘Life is more complex than a single social media post. Things are complicated. Don’t believe what you see online. Get out into the world and talk to your loved ones. Check in. Ask them genuinely how they’re doing. Be available to help. To listen. To offer help. Remove the stigma of asking for help.
‘Let’s spread the awareness of this issue, for Lee and every one else who needs to hear this: #speakupforlee
‘And hold your loved ones tight. Tell them you love them. Because life can change in an instant. We will miss her with every fibre of our hearts.’
Lee and Max gained half a million followers by documenting their travels (Picture: Instagram)
Max, who broke up with Lee in January 2020 but remained close with her, wrote on his personal Instagram page: ‘It was always you ❤️ You were the best thing to ever happen to me. You were the best person I have ever met. I fell in love with you the day we met yet you were still the stronger one that said “I love you” first. I never stopped loving you Mountie, I hope you know that.
‘I will always cherish my time with you in this world and hope beyond hope to see you in the next ✨ Save some mini eggs for me.’
Lee’s boyfriend Jordan Chiu wrote on his Instagram page: ‘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. 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.’
In February, Lee and Jordan completed their renovation of a van which they planned to take on tour.
YouTuber Lee had been open about her struggles with mental illness, and in October 2020, she revealed she had come off her anti-depressants after being on them for several months, and was undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy.
Her father said that she had been struggling with cyberbullying and in the days before her death, Lee had been the target of a ‘pile-on’ after she was ‘roasted’ in a YouTube video.
Wil told 7NEWS: ‘He started the narrative, posted a video two days before she took her own life. With Lee and YouTube, you got a 20-minute glimpse of what they want you to see but you don’t get the full story.
‘i’m f***ing p***ed off with those guys.’
A GoFundMe page has been set up in Lee’s memory to raise awareness for mental illness and to combat cyberbullying.
Lee and Max met while Aussie Max was visiting Canada, and they embarked on many travels together, with Max’s dog Occy, after buying and renovating a van.
Their joint Instagram account racked up nearly 500,000 followers.
Following their split last year after four years, Max moved back to Australia, with Occy being sent back home later in the year.
Despite their break-up, the pair remained supportive of each other, and shared each other’s content on their respective Instagram and YouTube channels.