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Jonny Morris

Man wearing glasses, pink blazer and polka dot shirt, standing cross armed outdoors.
  • Category: Presidents' Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care, 2007; Master of Arts in Child and Youth Care, 2010
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC
  • Birthplace: Grantham, United Kingdom

About Jonny

Jonny Morris is the CEO at the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division and has more than 20 years of experience in community-based mental-health services, policy and advocacy. He has research and practice experience in suicide prevention, is a trained counsellor and has taught child and youth care courses at the University of Victoria and Douglas College.

Jonny is committed to a vision of mental health for all, working at the Canadian Mental Health Association to lead system change efforts in preventing mental health problems, responding to crisis and improving care when people need to go to hospital. As an advocate for reducing stigma, he regularly speaks with workplaces, colleges, universities and communities about the opportunity to ensure mental health is a priority.

Previously, Jonny led the policy and legislation branch for BC’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, helping build the newly formed ministry from the ground up. Jonny comes at his work with lived experience personally and as a family member.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are?

The ring, the circle, at UVic, is symbolic for me, around a sense of a community that cares. I had a pretty rough go in my first years of undergrad, and what really stood out was the role in which a supportive and caring faculty formed a circle of care and trust around me. There's been so many faculty members, teaching professionals and people in student services and ancillary services, who've played a direct, influential role in my career. And so much of how I've arrived as a provincial leader in mental health really gets traced back to the culture of support and mentorship and growth that I was so lucky to experience.

What skills or traits are needed for you to be good at what you do?

The ability to listen, the ability to actively empathize, be present and be engaged with someone. The ability to sit in space with groups of people. The ability to meet someone where they're at around their own lived and living experience.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I feel grateful to have been in an organization for almost 15 years where we've led some of the biggest reforms to mental-health care in the province. One thing that I am proud to see flourish is the new community-led crisis teams in the province, including here in Victoria, that our partners and colleagues are leading [and] have made the most seismic shift to how crisis care is delivered to people at their most vulnerable. What we've done is reduced the need for police and the need for people to go to the emergency room. And if I were to leave my job today and move on to running a llama farm or something like that, I'd be proud of the fact that the work that our partners are leading is saving lives and changing lives.

What motivates you?

I come at my job with my own lived and living experience of depression and also having a family member who lives with severe mental health problems. These issues are close to home, whether it be colleagues, friends, community… I get out of bed every morning and go to work because there is an incredibly pressing need for us to do better when it comes to mental-health and substance-use care in BC and beyond. For me, there's such a moral imperative for us to keep acting and keep doing.

What would you do with an extra hour of free time every day?

I would probably find spaces to be more creative. A lot of my work is cognitive… so finding some way to be creative or to be more active.

Is there a food you can't resist?

Ernest Ice Cream in Vancouver has the most delicious vegan raspberry ice cream.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I really like “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States. I also like “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

What’s a secret talent you possess that might surprise people?

I love motorcycling. I have a Triumph Speed Triple. It’s a sport bike, which goes very fast. I used to commute to Vancouver a lot, so I’d dress up in all the gear and ride in the rain and often would go past cars with kids in them who'd be thinking, “What's up with this person? He looks like a transformer.”

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.