Mental Health America – a proud member charity of Community
Health Charities and the leading advocacy organization addressing the full
spectrum of mental and substance use conditions and their effects nationwide –
works to inform, advocate and enable access to quality behavioral health
services for all Americans.
Mental Health America continues its tradition of celebrating
May as Mental Health Month, which began in 1949 to raise awareness of mental
health conditions and mental wellness for all.
When Cynthia Collington was first diagnosed with MS, in 1997, her doctor told her she’d be in a wheelchair in six months. “I laughed and said, ‘No, I won’t,’” Cynthia recalled “You’re not going to take away my legs—my most valuable assets. I’m not giving up my legs.” She proceeded to walk up to 10 miles a day for 10 years then switched to a tread-climber. “Thirteen years later, I’m still walking, still exercising, still moving,” she says.
When Cynthia Collington was first diagnosed with MS, in 1997, her doctor told her she’d be in a wheelchair in six months. “I laughed and said, ‘No, I won’t,’” Cynthia recalled “You’re not going to take away my legs—my most valuable assets. I’m not giving up my legs.”
She proceeded to walk up to 10 miles a day for 10 years then switched to a tread-climber. “Thirteen years later, I’m still walking, still exercising, still moving,” she says.
Her determination showed itself in other areas, from putting herself through college to transforming herself into a singer so she could produce “Join the Movement”, an upbeat song she hopes will encourage everyone with MS to keep going.
One day several years ago, Cynthia was “sitting around complaining. Saying, I’m bored, I need something to do.” That feeling, along with her deep religious faith—and her mother—inspired her to write a song for the MS Society.
There was one big hitch. “I’m not a singer, I’m an actor—my first degree is in theater,” she says. (She also has an MBA in management /finance and an accounting BA, and worked as an accountant until about 10 years ago.) Cynthia took voice lessons for three years in order to build her confidence enough to make the song. “I trained for a year and a half before I started singing,” she recalls. “The first song I sang for my teacher, I stopped after a couple of lines and turned around, thinking someone had come in and was singing behind me. My teacher said, ‘No, that was you, that was beautiful.’ I told her I’m an actor not a singer. And she said, ‘Act like a singer!’”
Cynthia spent three to four years finding a producer, going through 10 before she found the perfect person. It took him about two months to do the music, which was finished last year.
“When people say they love it, I ask them for a donation, and tell them to make the checks payable to the Society,” she says. “My college sorority sisters of Delta Sigma Theta have also been helpful in raising money. When I first got diagnosed, they came out of the woodwork—with offers, advice, books. I said, nope, just give me money for the Society. Every year, when I beg, they come though.” As a volunteer with the Dallas chapter almost since her diagnosis, Cynthia has also done “whatever they need: mailings, all the events, walks and bike rides.”
Cynthia turns introspective for a moment. “Having MS has made me be more compassionate toward other people, not be so judgmental,” she says. “I try harder to look at the positive, little things we take for granted, that I now see are important.”
Her dream for her song—“our song,” she corrects gently—is for the whole world to join the Movement. She also hopes it will encourage not just people with MS, but everyone, to be more physically active. “You’ve got to keep moving, force yourself to keep exercising even if you don’t feel like it,” she urges. “Fight back.”