On December the 5th, 2018, Mr. Roger Von Braun visited Randolph-Macon Academy to speak to the student body on the complicated subject of suicide prevention, and about finding a way to navigate out of the darkest moments in life. It was a topic inspired by the memory of his brother, who took his own life on January the 12th, 2015.
Mr. Von Braun recounted how lucky his brother was, blessed with the ability to find a way out of every life-threatening event in his life, yet he also recalled how his brother considered himself the unluckiest man in the world, fell prey to an addiction to drugs, and succumbed to his own voice encouraging him to quit on life. But suicide was not the end. It may have been for his brother, but as Mr. Von Braun said, “Suicide is like a bomb. . . the impact of that explosion affects everyone left behind.” He went on to say that 123 people take their lives in the USA every day, out of 3,000+ attempts. It is the #2 killer in the world, after accidents and in front of homicide. One is more likely to kill themselves than they are to kill another human being.
When he himself began to slip into depression and suicidal thoughts, the courage to reach out and ask for help gripped Mr. Von Braun, and he told his mother that he didn’t think he could do this anymore. The response surprised him; a despairing cry that she’d already buried one son, and could not bury another. If he committed suicide, he would as good as kill his mother too. Family, friends, pets, loved ones and colleagues, in some form and fashion all are affected in a suicide. None can go unchanged. Mr. Von Braun urged the students to remember those they love, what and who is left behind at the end of a life, especially one ended prematurely.
Mr. Von Braun had extremely valuable advice to give the students at R-MA, particularly in regards to how one thinks and acts. Every single thing in life affects somebody, from the company they keep to the shows they watch, the books they read and the things they say – even as jokes. Most particularly of all it is in the way somebody thinks. If you feel yourself thinking something negative about yourself, don’t leave it unchecked. Examine what you’re thinking about – is this healthy? And if you say no to that question, you’re now in charge. You’ve recognized it’s unhealthy. So what will you do?
In the end, you allow yourself to be programmed, or you program yourself to believe your thoughts. Everybody is playing the game of life, but there is only one dealer – yourself. Think positive and say positive. Say positive, to stay positive. It’s not over until you’ve won.
Mr. Von Braun’s presentation brought me back to a moment that I am now certain changed the direction of my life two years ago. In a sudden moment of clarity, I asked myself, “What are you saying?” after making yet another joke about killing myself, over something so needlessly trivial that I cannot remember it. It was the common joke in my group of friends, to respond to “Are you ready?” with “I am ready to die.” For some reason that day, I thought, “Is this healthy? Is it affecting me at all to be saying that I want to die all the time, even if I’m sure I don’t mean it?” From then on I had pledged to change how I spoke – to stop with the suicidal “jokes,” to say positive things instead. From then on, I did not respond to “How are you?” with “Boy, I’m ready to die.” Instead, I would try to respond with, “Doin’ alright,” at the very least.
A month ago, I was walking through Student Services when Sergeant Bob Lewallen approached me. He greeted me with, “How are you doing?”, and I instantly responded with my usual of “I’m doin’ good, Sergeant.” What he said next surprised me.
“That’s what I like about you. Every time I ask, you’re always doin’ good.”
Perhaps that’s part of the secret of beating the temptation of suicide. Simply changing how you act and what you say. Because if you say that you want to die enough times… you begin to believe it. It doesn’t work one way, either. If you say you’re “doin’ good” enough times? Maybe the next time you say it, you’ll be doin’ good.
R-MA was honored to host Mr. Roger Von Braun for his talk, and we extend our thanks. His words have massive value in today’s world, especially for the next generation being taught at this school.
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