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Inspiring vet overcomes bereavement and depression to graduate

matt guy graduation day

Dr Matt Guy smiles on the day of his University of Bristol graduation

graduate vet with rabbit and reptile

Matt during his training to become a vet

matt guy and mother Alison Reeves-Guy

Matt with his beloved mother Alison Reeves-Guy

Press release issued: 3 August 2023

A student who lost his family home and fell into a deep depression after his mother died has today graduated from the University of Bristol.

Dr Matt Guy’s beloved mother passed away two weeks after he started his dream course: veterinary science.

During the five-year degree, Matt retook a year and had a year out to look after his mental health – but he never gave up.

He says his mum would be “insanely proud” to see him graduate and secure a graduate job as a vet at a major chain of veterinary practices.

The 26-year-old said: “It took seven long, difficult years but I'm now Dr Guy and it's finally paying off.

“I want other people who are struggling with grief as well as depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue to know that there is hope in the long run.

“Mental health can be such a barrier, but there are resources you can use. University staff and its mental health services were amazing.

“It’s not about how long it takes. I’m really glad I took the extra time, because it means I’m here and I passed.

“I'd encourage anyone to reach out for help or support - there are always people who care about you and want you around. The possibilities are endless for the future.”

Matt grew up in Walsall, West Midlands, and was one of the few pupils at his school to go on to university.

After a gap year spent working at zoos and vets around the country, he received a ‘contextual offer’ – a grade reduction for those from backgrounds less likely to go to university – to study at the University of Bristol.

But just two weeks into his degree, his mum passed away from a heart attack.

He remembers Alison Reeves-Guy as an “inspiring” woman who worked as a nurse and loved going out dancing.

“It completely took me by surprise and it wrecked my mental health in profound ways,” Matt said. “It didn’t feel real: I was in in a whole new place, doing a course I’d wanted to do for years in a new city with new friends, and then my mum wasn’t there.

“I lost my family home as we had to sell everything, and I lost the woman who was my rock.”

Matt attended counselling and bereavement groups at the University and eventually started to feel better. But after unearthing some childhood trauma he relapsed and endured a rocky few years.

During the pandemic, he took a year off university and found longer term support through Betterhelp, an online therapy platform.

Matt said: “I feel like I've finally come out of the other side and I'm thinking about my future in a different light.”

Today he was officially conferred his degree by the University of Bristol, with his proud partner, dad and sister watching on.

Matt has just started a graduate scheme with CVS Ltd and hopes to specialise in birds and exotic animals in the future.

Matt’s senior tutor Dr Rose Grogono-Thomas remembers the call to say Matt’s mum had died.

She said: “I remember thinking how tragic it was, he really had the rug pulled from under him.

“Matt has had a really difficult few years but he had the awareness and resilience to pull through – and that is something very much worth celebrating.

“Matt is a fantastic communicator and will be a brilliant vet. Everyone at the Vet School is very proud of him we wish him the best of luck.”

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