Warning: This article contains details about suicide and bullying that may disturb some readers.
A Canadian social media star who died by suicide last week was hounded by cruel cyber bullies before taking her own life, her father has revealed.
Lee MacMillan, who had long battled depression, amassed tens of thousands followers on the travel Instagram account she started with ex-boyfriend Max Bidstrup in 2016.
MacMillan and Bidstrup's campervan adventures - which saw them travel from Canada's far north to the southernmost tip of South America - had captured the hearts of more than 70,000 people.
But her father Wil says in early 2020, when the pair split on good terms and took their social media businesses separate ways, she started to come under vicious attacks from online trolls.
MacMillan died last Friday, at age 27, and Wil told 7 News the bullying she received likely contributed to her mental health struggles.
He said people would use their online anonymity to berate MacMillan, and says she was targeted by an online commentator who profited from "roasting" her on YouTube.
"He started the narrative, posted a video two days before she took her own life," Wil said. "I'm f**king pissed off with those guys."
The account MacMillan shared with Bidstup has now been converted into a tribute page, and a crowdfunding campaign has been established to raise funds to increase mental health awareness and combat cyber bullying.
"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, March 26, 2021," Jordan Chiu, her boyfriend at the time she died, wrote on the GoFundMe page.
"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.
"Lee's struggles with her mental health were also compounded in her last months of life by persistent and often vicious cyber bullying, and we want to drive home the point that cyber bullying has real life consequences.
"The people on the other side of the screen have real lives, real feelings, and real struggles of their own."
The page says MacMillan was receiving help from professionals and was well-supported by family and friends, but the illness was just too strong.
The fundraiser has already raised US$50,000 - half of the $100,000 goal.
Where to find help and support:
- Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
- Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
- Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
- What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email email@example.com or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584