An interview with ManSquared

This week we caught up with the team behind ManSquared, a project developing mental fitness tools to help facilitate open and vulnerable conversations between men.

A group photo of Finn, Anna, Rachel and Jamie sat on a wall
Left to right: Finn Higgins, Anna Parker, Rachel Lee and Jamie Thomson

Hello! Why don’t you introduce yourself?

We’re a group of four University of Bristol students all studying innovation, passionate about male mental fitness having seen the impact it has had on ourselves, our friends, families and communities.
Anna is a wild swimmer, keen rugby player and studies psychology.
Finn is a history student who loves football and the outdoors.
Jamie can’t get enough of his electronic music and loves spending time on his bike.
Rachel is captain of the Bristol Jets Pom team and enjoys being creative in her free time.

Can you tell us a bit more about the project?
Throughout our third-year innovation studies, we formed a group based around solving the issue of poor male mental health. This issue is prevalent in Bristol, with fellow students struggling with mental health issues and finding it hard to start the conversation about their wellbeing.

29% of students experience mental health disorders at some point in their degree and COVID-19 massively exacerbated this issue. As a team we researched existing organisations, tools and groups and try to find out what has been effective in improving men’s mental fitness.

We use the term mental fitness as keeping your brain and emotional health in shape is as important as any other muscle. We gained a lot of insight from TalkClub: a men’s fitness charity that helps men to open up and build their mental fitness by simply asking “How are you out of 10?”. Their founder Ben provided us with support and guidance on how to form an organisation within Bristol and how to ask the right questions.

Our mission is to create a world where men talk openly with each other before they reach a point of crisis by using our facilitation tools. We aim to act as a preventative solution which addresses issues before they get really serious.

What’s the story behind the name?
The idea behind the name is about a ‘Man to Man’ connection. WE BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF A SIMPLE EQUATION, (MAN) X (MAN), TO SOLVE A WICKED PROBLEM. WE ARE SQUARING UP TO OPENING UP, WE ARE MANSQUARED.

I’ve spotted some pretty cool cups in Harry’s Bar at Coombe Dingle, what’s their purpose?
The aim for the cups is to get men to speak more openly about their mental health and emotions as this is traditionally a topic that they sweep under the rug. We want to change this. The idea is for students to work through the questions on the cup at a time they see fit. If not, we hope that the cups will still spread awareness!

The QR code also takes you to a Linktree with easily accessible mental fitness resources in Bristol. There are talking groups to join and social media accounts to follow. We hope that people start a conversation on and off the pitch and share the cups with their friends and family.

What links would you like to share to our readers that are looking for support right now?

Talk Club: wetalkclub.com/
Bristol based male talking group

Dudes and Dogs: facebook.com/DudesnDogs/
Nationwide male dog walking group

What does the future of ManSquared look like?
At the moment the project is somewhat ‘on hold’ as we are focusing on our final year of studies at the University. We are assessing how this ‘trial’ run at the University of Bristol goes and on completion of our studies we may try to expand to other universities to keep the conversations going. Our email inboxes are very much open though for anyone who wants to reach out or just have a chat.

 

What does it mean to be a man? ManSquared aim to prompt open conversation.
The cups that you can now spot at Harry’s Bar @ Coombe Dingle

 

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