Title

Associate Professor

Contact Information

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Office: 340K MCKB
Department:
CPSE

Teaching Interests

school-based crisis intervention

Research Interests

school-based crisis intervention; children\'s grief; bibliotherapy, suicide prevention, social skills, social emotional learning

Awards

Vicki Cottrell HOPE Award

Utah County HOPE Task Force, Suicide Prevention

2008

School Psychology Professor of the Year

Graduating Cohort of BYU School Psychology Students

2004

School Psychology Professor of the Year

Graduating Cohort of BYU School Psychology Students

2007

Selected Publications

Acculturation experiences of Chinese international students who attend American Universities (2017)

Authors: Li, Zhen; Heath, Melissa; Jackson, Aaron; Allen, Gerald; Fischer, Lane; Chen, Peter

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Publisher: American Psychological Association

City: Washington DC

Country: United States

Volume: 48

Issue: 1

Page Numbers: 11-21

URL: dx.doi.org/10.1037/pro0000117

Abstract: click to view

Given the increasing number of Chinese international students attending American universities, it is important to consider potential problems arising during their initial transition period, and their experiences acculturating into the American culture and educational system. Thirteen Chinese international students participated in qualitative interviews conducted in participant’s native language, Mandarin Chinese. Data analysis followed the hermeneutic circle. Based on their personal perspectives, participants reported their experiences encountered during their initial transition into the U.S. They described how they made sense of their experiences and how their ways of thinking and behaving changed as a result of being influenced by their experiences interfacing with U.S. culture. Participants also shared their strategies they perceived as helpful in specific situations. Based on an analysis of participants’ interviews, emerging themes included (a) difficulties and challenges they faced as new immigrants, (b) differences they encountered with respect to their homeland and the new environment, including language/communication, culture, academic study and learning, living in the U.S., and psychological adjustments, (c) positive growth they acknowledged from facing challenges and adapting to their new environment, and (d) help they received from a variety of individuals and organizations. Additionally, participants offered suggestions to future Chinese international students, emphasizing the importance of more proactively seeking and receiving assistance. Implications for American universities, including counseling centers, to more actively assist and include Chinese international students are also discussed. An increased understanding of and sensitivity to international students’ challenges will help professionals strengthen outreach services.

Secondary teachers’ perceptions of their role in suicide prevention and intervention. (2016)

Authors: Hatton, Victoria; Heath, Melissa Ann; Gibb, Gordon Stanley; Coyne, Sarah Marie; Greg, Hudnall; , Cathy

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Publisher: Springer

City: New York

Country: USA

Volume: 8

Issue: 1

ISSN: 1866-2625

Abstract: click to view

Teachers are identified as frontline participants in school-based suicide prevention efforts. However, their training and roles in these efforts are often not clearly defined. Because 25 states currently mandate suicide prevention training for teachers and 14 other states encourage this training, teachers’ perceptions about their role in suicide prevention are important to consider. As such, this study assessed secondary teachers’ (N=74) perceptions of their role in suicide prevention, barriers to participating in suicide prevention, and their perceived levels of comfort and confidence in identifying and intervening with suicidal youth. Participating teachers overwhelmingly agreed that they should have a role in suicide prevention. In comparison to untrained teachers, those with previous suicide prevention training were twice as likely to have had a suicidal student or peer of a suicidal student approach them to talk about suicide. Surprisingly, years of teaching were not correlated with teachers’ comfort and confidence in identifying and supporting suicidal youth. Overall, teachers agreed that limited training, fears of making the situation worse, and fears of legal repercussions were barriers that kept teachers from intervening with potentially suicidal students. In order to help teachers effectively perform their gatekeeper role, training efforts must consider teachers’ perceptions, address perceived barriers, and facilitate teacher-student interactions that would increase the likelihood of students coming to teachers for assistance with suicidal concerns. To help schools in providing suicide prevention training for teachers, a list of recommended resources is provided.

Classroom-based social-emotional learning: Teaching social skills with children’s literature (2015)

Authors: Heath, Melissa Ann; Young, Ellie L; Smith, Kathryn; Miller, Karli; Philbrick, Afton; Stein, Camden ; Kama, Haliaka

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Publisher: Utah Association of School Psychologists

City: Salt Lake City, UT

Country: USA

Volume: 31

Issue: 1

Page Numbers: 6-13

Abstract: click to view

Solely focusing on test scores deters from providing a supportive learning environment that nurtures students’ social and emotional development (Elias & Arnold, 2006). Addressing this need, the purpose of this article is to offer resources to help schools with children’s social and emotional learning, preparing them for living with and working with others. We start by discussing three overlapping areas of concern: (a) students’ problematic behaviors that threaten individual and classroom learning; (b) students’ social skills and the need to teach behaviors that facilitate students’ interpersonal relationships and create a civil, respectful, and productive learning environment; and (c) students’ social emotional learning (SEL) to create a nurturing and supportive classroom. After providing this foundational information, we discuss a positive and proactive approach—teaching pre-identified social skills with children’s literature (bibliotherapy). We recommend a list of carefully selected picture books that tie in with a set of identified social skills (see Table 1). Using books as the centerpiece, we propose a lesson plan format for social skills instruction (see Appendix). We close the article with Internet links to our trove of prepared resources (lesson plans, posters, video clips, and activities; see Table 2).

Maltreatment and emotional and behavioral problems in Chinese children with and without oppositional defiant disorder: The mediating role of the parent-child relationship (2015)

Authors: Li, Longfeng; Li, Xiuyun; Chi, Peilian; Heath, Melissa Ann; Fang, Xiaoyi; Du, Hongfei; Wang, Zhonghui

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Abstract: click to view

Maltreatment has negative effects on the parent-child relationship and the emotional and behavioral development of children. The current study aimed to examine the associations among maltreatment, parent-child relationship, and emotional and behavioral problems in Chinese children with or without Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Participants in the study included 259 children with ODD and their 269 non-ODD counterparts from northern, eastern, and southwestern China. We also collected data from their teachers and fathers or mothers and teachers. The results showed that ODD children suffered more maltreatment and had more emotional and behavioral problems than their non-ODD peers. For all children (both ODD and non-ODD children), emotional abuse predicted emotional problems but not behavioral problems. and physical abuse predicted behavioral problems but not emotional problems. Parent-child relationship mediated the effects of emotional abuse and physical abuse on emotional problems among ODD children but not among non-ODD children. Implications for prevention of emotional and physical abuse and ODD in the Chinese cultural context are discussed.

Psychological development and educational problems of left-behind children in rural China (2015)

Authors: Sun, Xiaojun; Tian , Yuan ; Zhang, Yongxin ; Heath, Melissa Ann; Xie, Xiaochun ; Zhou , Zongkui

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 36

Issue: 3

Page Numbers: 227–252

Abstract: click to view

With China’s rapidly developing economy and increasing urbanization, many adults from rural areas migrate to urban areas for better paying jobs. A side effect of this migration, parents frequently leave their children behind (left-behind children). This research investigated left-behind children’s and non-left-behind children’s psychological, behavioral, and educational functioning. Survey participants included 1,708 adolescents (54.8% female; mean age = 15.03±1.93 years) from rural areas in Central China. Additionally, 32 left-behind children and 32 head teachers were interviewed. Data indicated that in comparison to non-left-behind children, left-behind children were at a disadvantage in regard to emotional adjustment (i.e., lower life satisfaction, lower self-esteem, and higher depression), but fared better in educational adjustment (greater school engagement). Mitigating factors which positively influenced outcomes of certain subgroups of left-behind children included the presence of one parent, increased parental contact, and shorter length of time since parental migration. Information gathered from interviews with LBC also indicated adverse effects of parent absence on children’s development. Teachers identified education measures and support offered to left-behind children and reported difficulties in communicating with parents. Based on this study’s findings, and considering the perspective of educators, implications for school-based interventions are explored.

Adolescents’ Perceptions of Male Involvement in Relational Aggression: Age and Gender Differences (2013)

Authors: Johnson, Curt; Heath, Melissa Ann; Bailey, Benjamin; Coyne, Sarah Marie; Yamawaki, Niwako; Eggett, Dennis Lee

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Merging empiricism and humanism: Role of social validity in the school-wide positive behavior support model (2013)

Authors: Marchant, Michelle; Heath, Melissa Ann; Miramontes, N.Y.

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 15

Issue: 4

Page Numbers: 221-230

Preparing to volunteer in disaster's aftermath (2013)

Authors: Marchant, Michelle; Heath, Melissa Ann

Publication Type: Newspaper article

Publisher: National Association of School Psychologists

Volume: 42

Issue: 3

Page Numbers: 22-24

Classroom bullying prevention Pre-K-4th Grade: Children's books, lesson plans, and activities (2013)

Authors: Heath, Melissa Ann; Dyches, Tina T; Prater, Mary Anne

Publication Type: Book, Textbook

Publisher: Linworth

City: Santa Barbara, CA

URL: www.abc-clio.com/ABC-CLIOCorporate/product.aspx?pc=A3790P

Abstract: click to view

Chapter 1: Bullying and the Opposing Power of Bystanders Chapter 2: Sharing Books with Your Classroom: The Basics of Bibliotherapy Chapter 3: Lesson Plans: Strengthening Classroom Bystander Support Chapter 4: Lesson Plans: Vulnerable Classmates

Strengthening classroom and teachers’ emotional support for children following a family member’s death (2012)

Authors: Heath, Melissa Ann; Cole, Beth Vaughan

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Abstract: click to view

National and international organizations have identified schools as having an unparalleled potential to offer supportive services for children’s mental health needs. This article reviews research and practice related to children’s grief and specifies strategies for classroom-based interventions. In particular, school psychologists are encouraged to assist teachers in addressing the needs of children following the death of a family member. A list of resources is included to assist School Psychologists in sharing critical information with teachers, preparing them to implement suggested strategies. Additionally, two ready-to-use classroom lesson plans integrate classroom discussion and activities with grief-themed children’s literature.

Handouts and resources to support Utah’s parents in preventing adolescent suicide (2012)

Authors: Whicker, Jenni; Heath, Melissa Ann; Jackson, Aaron Paul; Fox, Charles Jay; Bledsoe, Cathy; Hudnall, Greg

Publication Type: Magazine Article

Publisher: Utah Association of School Psycholgists

City: SLC, UT

Country: USA

Volume: 28

Issue: 1

Page Numbers: 12-26

Abstract: click to view

As part of Utah’s state-wide Youth Suicide Prevention Manual, parent handouts offer an invitation to increase parent involvement and home/school collaboration. Information from a variety of resources was synthesized into handouts that schools can provide to parents (see handouts provided in the Appendix). These handouts include information regarding adolescent suicide, warning signs, steps parents can take if suicidal ideation or planning is suspected, and community resources available for parents and adolescents. Developed as part of home/school collaborative suicide prevention efforts, these handouts will be made available in Utah’s Youth Suicide Prevention Manual. School districts are encouraged to consider their schools’ needs and to modify these handouts as needed to fit their community’s and families’ needs.

High school teachers’ perceptions of cyber bullying: Prevention and intervention strategies (2012)

Authors: Stauffer, Sterling; Heath, Melissa Ann; Coyne, Sarah Marie; Ferrin, Scott Ellis

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 49

Issue: 4

Page Numbers: 353-367

Abstract: click to view

Recent meta-analyses indicate that bully prevention programs produce minimal change in student behavior. This study examined 66 high school teachers’ perceptions regarding cyber bullying’s impact on students; which intervening strategies teachers would use when dealing with cyber bullying; and which prevention strategies would assist in preventing cyber bullying. Almost one fourth of teachers indicated cyber bullying does not have long lasting negative effects, and that cyber bullying “prepares students for life.” Less than half of teachers favored implementing a formal cyber bully prevention program. Teachers perceived the following strategies as most helpful in addressing cyber bullying: increasing parental involvement, warning students about consequences for cyber bullying, and increasing consequences for cyber bullying. School administrators should consider teachers’ perceptions before implementing prevention programs that target cyber bullying. Additionally, strategies should consider fostering greater teacher buy-in, thus improving intervention fidelity and creating a unified effort focused on decreasing student cyber bullying.

Portrayals of bullying in children's picture books and implications for bibliotherapy (2011)

Authors: Moulton, Emily; Heath, Melissa Ann; Prater, Mary Anne; Dyches, Tina T

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 51

Issue: 2

Page Numbers: 119-148

Abstract: click to view

Bullying, a serious issue in today’s schools, negatively impacts children. This article summarizes research and emphasizes the need for effective tools, such as bibliotherapy, to deter bullying. To assist professionals in selecting books for bibliotherapy, 38 bully-themed children’s K-3 picture books ranked 1- 4 by The Horn Book Guide (HBG) during January 1, 2004 through January 1, 2010 were analyzed. Comparisons were made between the selected books’ portrayals of bullying and aspects of bullying, and bully prevention described in research literature. Information was summarized, including the following details: (a) gender of bully and victim, (b) type of bullying, (c) location of bullying, (d) responses of bystanders and adults, and (e) resolution of bullying problems. Considering this descriptive information, professionals are advised to more selectively recommend books to fit the unique needs of students and encourage desired bullying resolution strategies.

Strengthening elementary school bully prevention with bibliotherapy (2011)

Authors: Heath, Melissa Ann; Moulton, Emily; Dyches, Tina T; Prater, Mary Anne; Brown, Alec

Publication Type: Newsletter

Volume: 39

Issue: 8

Page Numbers: 12-14

Abstract: click to view

The consequences of bullying are both widespread and severe. It disrupts learning, threatens school safety, and poses long-term emotional repercussions for bullies, victims, and bystanders. Although multiple strategies have targeted bullying, bullying must be understood within a social contextual framework beyond the bully-victim dyad. Davis and Davis (2007) emphasize the importance of focusing on the broad base of bystanders, strengthening this vast majority of students to speak up and take an active stand against bullying. To this end, bibliotherapy is recommended as a potential tool to address these factors and to create positive, supportive, and inclusive classroom environments. Although frequently used by mental health professionals as an activity aligned with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and play therapy, bibliotherapy is also recommended for teachers and parents as a teaching aid to address social skills and normal developmental challenges. Grounded in principles of CBT, bibliotherapy supports classrooms in promoting and modeling desired social interactions. In turn, the majority of children--bystanders--will be empowered to actively take a stand against bullying. Reading carefully selected bully-themed literature and participating in related discussions and activities strengthens core prosocial messages and builds classroom unity against bullying. Additionally, stories help school psychologists and teachers initiate important classroom discussions about friendship, kindness, and conflict resolution. (Contains 12 resources and 5 online resources.)

Special issue on strengthening school-based support for bereaved students: Editor's introduction (2011)

Authors: Heath, Melissa Ann; Hudnall, Greg

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 32

Issue: 2

Page Numbers: 115-116

Cross-cultural sensitivity in state school crisis plans (2011)

Authors: Annandale, Neil; Heath, Melissa; Dean, Brenda; Kemple, Ana; Takino, Yozo

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Page Numbers: 16-33

Abstract: click to view

This study reviewed school-based crisis planning resources and guidelines provided by 40 state departments of education and offices of safe and drug-free schools. Content was examined for indications of cultural competency. The most frequently reported topics included: (a) assisting students with mental and physical disabilities, (b) tapping into community resources representative of diverse cultural groups, and (c) strengthening communication by addressing cross-cultural language and communication issues. Although 33 of the 40 states mentioned topics related to human diversity and cultural sensitivity, the focus was peripheral. Tying research to practical application, suggestions are made to strengthen cultural competence in school-based crisis planning, ultimately improving supportive services for all students and families.

Newbery award winning books 1975-2009: How do they portray disabilities? (2010)

Authors: Leininger, Melissa; Dyches, Tina T; Prater, Mary Anne; Heath, Melissa Ann

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 45

Issue: 4

Page Numbers: 583-596

Abstract: click to view

Newbery books represent quality literature that has a profound social-emotional impact on its readers, yet these books have not been systematically evaluated for their portrayal of characters with disabilities. Thirty-one Newbery Award and Honor books from 1975–2009 were identified and portrayed 41 main or supporting characters with disabilities. These books were evaluated using the Rating Scale for Quality Characterizations of Individuals with Disabilities in Children’s Literature. Results indicate the representation of Newbery characters with disabilities is not proportionate to the current U.S. population of students with disabilities. Further, racial representation portrayed in these books is not representative of the students receiving special education services. Trend analyses indicate that overall the portrayal of characters with disabilities is increasingly positive. School personnel are encouraged to select appropriate books for their instructional or bibliotherapeutic purposes. Authors are encouraged to include dynamic, exemplary, and memorable characters who are representative of today’s school population of students with disabilities.

Special education faculty perceptions of participating in a culturally responsive professional development program (2010)

Authors: Devereaux, Temma; Prater, Mary Anne; Jackson, Aaron Paul; Heath, Melissa Ann; Carter, Nari

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 33

Issue: 4

Page Numbers: 263-278

Abstract: click to view

Special education faculty member (n-12) from a large Western university participated in a four-year professional development program centered on increasing their cultural responsiveness. During the fourth year the primary investigator interviewed faculty members regarding their perceptions and the impact of the program. Each interview was audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using the inductive analysis design for qualitative research (Hatch, 2002). Faculty expressed likes and dislikes of the program and provided suggestions for future professional development. Other results that emerged included that time was a barrier, that leaving campus facilitated learning, and that collaboration enhanced learning. Faculty reported that the professional development made them self-reflect, change practice and attitudes, adjust their perceptions of diverse students, and alter professional interactions. Faculty also expressed personal conflicts as a result of these activities.

Teaching students with obsessive compulsive disorder (2010)

Authors: Leininger, Melissa; Dyches, Tina T; Prater, Mary Anne; Heath, Melissa Ann

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 45

Issue: 4

Page Numbers: 221-231

Abstract: click to view

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) i s a neurobiological condition affecting 1 of every 200 school-age children. OCD greatly affects students' academic, behavioral, and social functioning, and it can lead to additional problems such as depression. To effectively collaborate with other individuals providing appropriate support to students with OCD, teachers need to understand this disorder, particularly its manifestations in school settings. This article addresses typical manifestations of OCD in school settings and provides general and specific accommodations for teachers to implement in their classrooms.

Understanding obsessive-compulsive disorder in students: Symptoms and school-based interventions (2010)

Authors: Dyches, Tina T; Leininger, Melissa; Heath, Melissa Ann; Prater, Mary Anne

Publication Type: Journal Article, Academic Journal

Volume: 34

Issue: 2

Page Numbers: 35-55

Abstract: click to view

This article provides current information relevant to school social workers who serve students with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), including how OCD is defined in children and adolescents, the impact of OCD on schooling, issues in identifying students with OCD, and effective interventions. The authors offer suggestions for collaboration among school personnel and families and for linking school with home. Finally, they present recommendations for educating peers of students with OCD.