Abstract: Belongingness Matters: Exploring the Role of Campus Belongingness and Its Association with Flourishing, Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Behaviors Among Black College Men (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Belongingness Matters: Exploring the Role of Campus Belongingness and Its Association with Flourishing, Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Behaviors Among Black College Men

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 7, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Janelle Goodwill, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background/Purpose: Suicide has been the 3rd leading cause of death among 15-24-year-old Black males in the U.S. since 1995, though empirical investigations that examine predictors of suicidal behaviors among this group remain scant. The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Joiner, 2005) identifies thwarted feelings of belongingness as a primary risk factor for suicide ideation, though this theory has yet to be examined specifically among young Black men. It is worthwhile to examine sense of campus belongingness among Black college men, as recent studies suggest that Black males report higher rate of loneliness and isolation throughout their time on university campuses (Chang, 2018). Thus, the current study extends Joiner’s theory to explore whether sense of campus belongingness is associated with suicidal behaviors and other mental health outcomes, like flourishing, anxiety, and depression symptoms.

Methods: Survey responses were collected from a nationally-representative sample of 688 Black college men who participated in the Healthy Minds Study. Sense of Campus Belongingness was measured using four items revised from Walton & Cohen’s scale of academic and social fit (2007). Flourishing was measured using Diener and colleagues’ (2010) flourishing scale. The GAD-7 (Spitze et al., 2006) and PHQ-9 (Kroenke et al., 2001) were used to measure anxiety and depressive symptoms. Suicidal behaviors were captured using single-items questions that asked participated to indicate whether they had thoughts of suicide or attempted suicide within the past 12 months.

Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was first used to assess dimensionality of the belongingness, flourishing, anxiety, and depression measures. These measures have not been validated among samples of Black men, and the factor structure of each scale should be examined before attempting to discuss predictive relationships. Items for the anxiety and depression factors were captured using a 4-point Likert scale, and in turn the WLSMV estimator was applied instead of the ML estimator. Items were freely loaded and factor variances were fixed to 1. Next, path analysis was employed to examine whether sense of campus belongingness is significantly associated with mental health outcomes. Missing data were handled using list wise deletion. All analyses were conducted using Mplus version 8.1 (Muthen & Muthen, 2017).

Results: Results yielded from the CFA suggest that the model was a very good fit [χ2= 509.825, p<.001; RMSEA= .026; CFI= .966; TLI= .962; SRMR=.059]. All item loadings ranged between .531 and .928. After assessing the factor structure, path analysis was used to examine relationships among key study variables. Path analysis results indicate that again the model was a good fit to the data [χ2= 603.480, p<.001; RMSEA= .023; CFI= .961; TLI= .956; SRMR=.079]. Belongingness was significantly associated with higher rates of flourishing (β= .490) and lower rates of anxiety (β= - .348), depression (β= - .413), suicide ideation (β= - .312), and suicide attempt (β= - .122).

Conclusions and Implications: Belongingness appears to be a critical factor in working to improve the well-being of Black male college students. It is imperative that university administrators create inclusive campuses that address and affirm the unique needs of Black college men.