Jonny and Neil Receive Honorary Degrees from the University of Bristol

Like any proud parents, Team This Can Happen is basking in the glory of our very own founders, Jonny and Neil, as they are honoured for their incredible mental health work by the University of Bristol, with two honorary degrees.

Already the recipients of many awards for their pioneering work, the pair donned wigs and gowns and attended the formal ceremony at this prestigious institute of academic excellence to receive their degrees – earned not by hitting the books but by treading the floorboards of hundreds of commercial institutions to bring an end to the stigma of mental health.

The tremendous twosome visited the University in September 2017 to speak at the signing of the Time to Change pledge. This oath denotes true commitment by the University to change the way everyone talks, thinks and acts when it comes to mental health.

Jonny and Neil’s journey has been well-documented on this website and across the wider press and internet. You can read and enjoy our many previous blogs about how This Can Happen was conceived to truly understand how the pair came together and the path they have taken since that fateful day on Waterloo Bridge a decade ago.

This real honour from Bristol University is another well-deserved accolade in a series of high profile events that recognise the pair and their extraordinary contribution to society.

In 2017 Jonny was awarded an MBE for his services to mental health and suicide prevention in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List and Neil’s 2014 Pride of Britain Award holds pride of place on his mantelpiece.

Jonny and Neil’s amazing day in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building at Bristol Uni was topped off with a standing ovation after a poignant acceptance speech.

“I never made it to my own graduation so this feels very special indeed. We’ve done so much work but this is an absolute highlight,” said Jonny.

“Mental health and suicide prevention are areas we’re incredibly passionate about. We know the difference that help and intervention can make when someone is struggling with their mental health and also that suicide is not inevitable, therefore we have to do all we can to prevent it.

“I’m eternally grateful to Neil. To receive this with him means more than words can say really.”

Jonny’s words of wisdom and encouragement to those graduating alongside him were also well received.

“I wish you every success, not just in your careers but in life as well,” he said.

“When I was your age, I was diagnosed with this form of schizophrenia and I really thought my life was over. But it was just the beginning. I overcame that adversity and if I can overcome any adversity then you can as well, so always remember that.”

Mark Ames, Director of Student Services, presented Jonny and Neil with their degrees.

He said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Jonny and Neil back to Bristol. Mental health and wellbeing is an area of increasing concern, for each of us personally but also for society.

“I find it striking that despite, or perhaps because, of living with mental illness, Jonny has discovered a profound meaning and purpose to his life which is to help improve the lives of others living with similar conditions.

“Equally, Neil’s compassionate act of kindness which helped make this possible has also transformed the course of his own life, in ways he could not have anticipated when he stopped to talk to Jonny on that bridge.”


About the author

Zoe Sinclair is the founder of Employees Matter, the largest provider of employee engagement seminars and webinars in the UK.

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