From the Outside Looking In: Sense of Belonging, Depression, and Suicide Risk

Psychiatry. 2015;78(1):29-41. doi: 10.1080/00332747.2015.1015867.


Objective: Sense of belonging has demonstrated significant relationships with depression and suicidal thoughts, highlighting its potential utility in refining assessment of suicide risk.

Method: Structured clinical interviews and self-report measures were used to assess depression, suicidal behaviors, hopelessness, life stress, social support, and sense of belonging in a sample of 116 depressed psychiatric patients.

Results: Lower sense of belonging was significantly associated with greater severity of depression, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and history of prior suicide attempt(s). However, sense of belonging did not predict suicidal ideation and history of prior suicide attempt(s) beyond the association between suicidal behaviors and established risk factors. Sense of belonging displayed a significant relationship with depression and hopelessness and is likely to play a critical role in both the development of and recovery from depression.

Conclusions: Sense of belonging is directly related to depression and hopelessness, while indirectly related to suicidal ideation. Low sense of belonging provides an important target for assessment and intervention in the treatment of depression. Cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal interventions may help improve an individual's sense of belonging and decrease symptoms of depression and hopelessness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Young Adult