Silence is not the answer: Maya Tarantino on student voice and mental health


(Photo/Margaret Young)

Margaret Young, Staff Writer

After seeing the impressive impact student voices have on mental health awareness, junior Maya Tarantino has made it her mission to create a strong support system for students struggling.

Tarantino says a “community where everyone walks through their [mental health] struggles together would be ideal.”

Tarantino shares that she has always been someone people rely on for advice about their problems. After being bullied and suffering subsequent mental health struggles and never being complacent in times of need for fellow students, she was prompted to get involved. 

Tarantino said, “I’ve never been someone who can sit back and watch something like that happen.”

As an avid volunteer and leader with organizations such as ICanHelp, Work2BeWell and Morgan’s Message, Tarantino has gained expertise about what students are going through and how to make positive changes. Through her work with these organizations, she recognizes the scope of the problem. 

“I don’t know anyone who isn’t struggling in some way or another… no one really knows who to go to or what to do about it,” Tarantino said.

When considering the increased depression and anxiety rates as a result of the pandemic, as well as the three school-wide suicides in the past two years, Tarantino wants to make it easier for those struggling to get help within the school and community. After identifying the need for a more complete action plan, she began working with counselors, students and teachers to help spread awareness through her club. 

Tarantino has partnered with both Morgan’s Message and ICanHelp to foster the Not On Our Watch (NOOW) club at Dulaney. This student-led club meets every other Wednesday at 7:10 am and aims at providing a student voice for counselors to better understand the needs of students, as well as spreading positivity and awareness throughout Dulaney and the surrounding community. Tarantino understands that she is not an expert and placed an emphasis on taking others’ ideas into consideration in order to create a successful club that will outlast her final two years at Dulaney. 

While mental illness is a sensitive and complex topic that is not anyone’s fault, her advice to government officials, school administrators, students and anyone wanting to make a difference is simple. 

She says, “listen: empower the student voice.”