MALN Opinion+: Melissa Threadgill

Hugo Balta


Welcome to another episode of MALN Opinion+! We are excited to have a program dedicated to discussing the concerns and opinions of Massachusetts’s Latino community. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for over a year now, throughout it, Americans bear witness to countless socio-political struggles. Life in the face of this tumultuous time has many of us feeling worn out, wondering what else may lay ahead. 

These feelings of uncertainty and fear can fuel mental illness making it feel unmanageable and unbearable for some. A pre-pandemic study by Salud America found that on average over 22% of Latino youth are depressed. That’s higher than any group in the United States aside from Native Americans. Other findings from Salud America show that Latino families are some of the least likely to seek help for mental health issues with only 8% of Latino parents reporting that their child had used mental health services in the past. 

It is important now more than ever that community members and organizations address the growing mental health issues in our country and assist people in finding the help that they so badly need. 

This week on MALN Opinion, we were joined by Melissa Threadgill, Director of Juvenile Justice Initiatives at the Office of the Child Advocate in Boston. Melissa joined the OCA almost three years ago, after 14 years of working in public policy. Since becoming director she has worked to improve the lives of youth involved, or at risk of becoming involved, with the juvenile justice system. 

Last October in the midst of the pandemic the OCA—along with the Department of Mental Health and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services—worked to launch the HandHold Initiative. HandHold was created to help families and children who may be facing mental and behavioral health issues at home get the assistance and resources they need to be successful in their mental health journey. 

During our interview, Melissa said, “We know that during the pandemic a lot of parents are having worries about changes they may be seeing in their kids behavior and they don’t necessarily know if it’s normal or something they should really be worried about so we created this website (HandHold) to be a place parents could go to really get answers to those questions — it may be that they need professional help so we also try to give parents connections to therapists and substance abuse services or something of that nature.” 

It is so important that we address these issues with mental health in our communities and face them head-on. Melissa wants parents to take their childrens’ and their own mental health seriously and encourages them to take a look at the HandHold Initiative website for ways to learn more. 

Resources mentioned in the video: