Raymond began training for his first triathlon in 2021 as part of an intensive OCD recovery program. He created the World Triathlon 777 Challenge to destigmatize conversations about mental health and honor the life of his best friend, Maya Amoils, a mental health advocate who passed away in 2021.
Raymond now facilitates open, vulnerable conversations about the connection between mental and physical health through documentary storytelling, content creation, public speaking, endurance events, and 1:1 counseling and support. He has spoken at events ranging from the White House to SXSW, and been featured in CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MTV, E!, TLC, and many more.
Since early childhood, Raymond struggled with OCD related to contamination, germs, and mortality. Compartmentalizing his compulsions behind a perfectionist veneer, he became a self-described “hyper anxious overachiever.” He graduated valedictorian for both his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Stanford University, rose to leadership positions at YouTube and Bumble, founded a creative consultancy that counted brands like CHANEL and Google as clients, and worked as a GLAAD Award-winning broadcast host and documentary producer. All of Raymond’s professional achievements — being honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list twice, OUT 100, and listed #1 on the Financial Times “Power Rankings” for LGBTQ+ business leaders — belied his private mental health struggles.
In 2020, Braun’s mental health deteriorated as he struggled to process the pandemic and Maya’s terminal cancer diagnosis. He became completely agoraphobic, unable to leave his apartment for several months and spending hours every day “sanitizing” everything around him. including only eating food that he had boiled. He hit rock bottom when he knocked over a pot of boiling water, sustaining a second-degree burn on his leg.
Through Maya’s encouragement and the help of an excellent therapy team, Raymond began to challenge his OCD. As he worked up his pyramid of “exposure therapy” he found solace in long, meditative runs, swims, and bike rides. Building confidence, community, and resilience through endurance sports helped Raymond graduate from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and completely transform his outlook. He has since completed multiple triathlons, including a long distance IRONMAN 140.6.
Braun now dedicates his time to mental health awareness and other social impact causes, making fitness more inclusive and accessible, and sharing stories to encourage and uplift. “I want to demonstrate that we have so much more potential than self-limiting thoughts, stereotypes, and social pressures lead us to believe,” he says.