Michelle Young: Tributes to influencer and soldier who died by suicide years after brother killed himself

Soldier, Instagram influencer and mum Michelle Young, who has died of suicide aged 34. Picture: Instagram/@MichelleYoung17.Soldier, Instagram influencer and mum Michelle Young, who has died of suicide aged 34. Picture: Instagram/@MichelleYoung17.
Soldier, Instagram influencer and mum Michelle Young, who has died of suicide aged 34. Picture: Instagram/@MichelleYoung17. | Photo by Instagram/@MichelleYoung17

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Michelle Young, an Instagram influencer and soldier who died by suicide, once said 'asking for help when you need it is the bravest thing anyone can do' in a post discussing her brother's suicide

An Instagram influencer and army veteran who killed herself days after her daughter's birthday had posted a message urging people suffering with suicidal thoughts to seek help before her death - due to losing her brother to suicide. In the months before she died, Michelle Young opened up to her 112,000 followers about the tragic circumstances surrounding her late brother's death.

However, last week Staff Sergeant Young died by suicide too. Just days before her death, Young had celebrated the 12th birthday of her daughter Gracie on January 17.

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A GoFundMe page has now been set up by Young's loved ones in her memory, and the money raised from it will go towards helping Gracie 'with anything she may need'. At the time of writing, the campaign had raised over $46,000 (around £38,000) of its $50,000 (around £40,000) goal. 

So, just who was Michelle Young, what had she said about her brother and daughter on Instagram, what tributes have been paid to her and how can you donate to the JustGiving page? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

*If you are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts you can reach out to your GP or call NHS Direct on 111. You can also contact mental health charity Samaritans. Their helpline is available 24/7 by calling 116 123. Their website also offers advice and resources for people of all ages, and the organisation can be emailed on [email protected] at any time. In an emergency you should always dial 999.*

Who was Michelle Young?

Young was a 34-year-old Instagram fitness influencer, army veteran and single mum-of-one from Arizona, United States. She was deployed twice to Afghanistan, most recently in 2021. That same year, she extended her military contract to serve 20 years. In September, she had marked 16 years of service. She gained the rank of Staff Sergeant in 2019 and marked her accomplishment with a post showing her cuddling then-seven-year-old Gracie.

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"I wouldn’t have the drive and motivation that I do today if it wasn’t for my daughter. She’s my “why” and she encourages me to be a better person and better NCO daily," she said.

Army veteran, Instagram influencer and mum Michelle Young, who has died of suicide aged 34. Photo by Instagram/@MichelleYoung17.Army veteran, Instagram influencer and mum Michelle Young, who has died of suicide aged 34. Photo by Instagram/@MichelleYoung17.
Army veteran, Instagram influencer and mum Michelle Young, who has died of suicide aged 34. Photo by Instagram/@MichelleYoung17. | Photo by Instagram/@MichelleYoung17

On her Instagram, @MichelleYoung17, Young was known for posting photos of her gym workouts and holiday snaps, but she also spoke about her struggles with mental health and body image. "I feel like we live in a world where everything is a superficial façade and everyone pretends that they don’t feel emotion, and that just isn’t me," she wrote in one 2018 post. She added: "Life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows but I promise if you allow yourself to feel the pain during the sad times the happy times are appreciated that much more."

What did Michelle Young say about her brother in an Instagram post?

In a post marking Suicide Prevention Month in September, Young explained how she lost her brother aged 14 to suicide. Describing him as her 'protector' and 'first best friend,' she said: "That day forever changed my life, but it also created a passion for helping others  that I don’t think I would have had if I didn’t experience the pain of losing him."

In the accompanying video, she explained she was also a crisis trauma response volunteer and a weekly volunteer at her local women and children's homeless centre. She also said: "The day that happened there was a hole that was put in my heart that, no matter how much time has gone by, how much healing and therapy that I've done, that hole stays." She added: "Asking for help and being able to reach out when you need it is the strongest and bravest thing anyone can do."

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She ended the post by urging her followers to share their stories. She said: "If any of you have lost someone you love to suicide, I’d love for you to leave a comment sharing whatever you’d like about them. May their memories live on, and may we work together to continue to walk each other home."

What did Michelle Young say about her daughter in an Instagram post?

Young marked her daughter's birthday with a video montage of the two of them together, which included photos of Gracie as a baby and growing in to the young girl she is now. She captioned it: "Happy birthday to the sweetest girl I’ve ever known. She’s a force to be reckoned with, she’s witty, ambitious, kind, compassionate, intelligent, hardworking, hilarious, and selfless. I cried the entire time I made this. I love you forever, kiddo. The best part about my life is being your momma."

What tributes have been paid to Michelle Young?

Followers left tributes on Young's Instagram page. One said: "This is so sad. As much as she loved her daughter and wanted to help others, she couldn't help herself." Another added: "Rest in peace beautiful." One more said: "This is proof that mental health and suicide can be hidden very well. Especially behind smiles and happiness. Check on your friends, everyone."

A friend of Young's wrote: "This breaks my entire heart. Michelle was SUCH an amazing woman I am SO proud to have known and had in my life. You never know what’s really going on when you see someone. My heart breaks for Gracie. My sweet sweet angel.. I know God welcomed you with arms wide open, and I know you are at eternal live and peace. I will see you in every sunrise babe."

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Another of Young's friends Sarah Maine, who set up the JustGiving page in her honour, wrote: "Our good friend and athlete Michelle was taken from us by suicide. Michelle was a beautiful soul, an amazing friend, a single mother, a soldier, and is proof you never know what someone is going through or what demons they may be fighting. We will never fill the gaps in our hearts and will always be left with questions why."

How can you donate to Michelle Young's JustGiving page?

You can donate to the JustGiving page that has been set up in Michelle Young's memory. Visit the 'In loving memory of SSG Michelle Young' page to donate.

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