A football team in Northern Ireland has become the first club dedicated to helping people with mental health issues.
FC Mindwell was unveiled at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Belfast.
Based at Holm Park in Armagh, the club will play in the third division of the Mid-Ulster League in the 2020-21 season.
The team is managed by David Dawson and will include a host of former Irish League and Intermediate League players as well as former Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie.
Former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland is the club’s ambassador.
I know from personal experience how difficult it can be with mental health, so to set up a football club to help people with this in mind is extremely important and I'm very pleased to be part of itChris Kirkland
The club plans to support and help its members, players and fans by offering resources and information enabling them to seek help or talk about any issues they may have.
FC Mindwell will work with the Links Counselling Service, a charity that provides therapeutic support to the community with the aim to prevent mental health illness from occurring in families and individuals by offering early intervention.
There are also plans to have a women’s team to help those who have been affected by mental health issues.
Co-founder Brian Adair said: “During lockdown, when the coronavirus pandemic hit Northern Ireland, myself and ex-footballers Glenn Emerson, Conor Larkin, Kevin Henry and Michael Green spoke to each other about how much we missed playing the game.
“Within a month we had formed a committee, the club had a name and the vision to make FC Mindwell a force to engage and work with former semi-professional footballers with mental health issues had been realised.
“We want to do all we can to help with people’s mental health, which is one of the biggest issues facing society today.
“In the future we have plans to have our own facility which will not only be used for football but to offer counselling for those affected by mental health issues.”
Chairman Andy Cully said: “I am honoured to be involved with our new football club FC Mindwell.
“Our ethos is entirely centred around the mental health and wellbeing of players, giving them the opportunity to pull the boots on and play competitive games.”
Club ambassador Mr Kirkland said: “I’m delighted to be involved with FC Mindwell.
“What they are doing with mental health and highlighting the issue is fantastic.
“I know from personal experience how difficult it can be with mental health, so to set up a football club to help people with this in mind is extremely important and I’m very pleased to be part of it.”