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STEPS - Delivered Directly by its Authors

WARNING - Could Contain Triggers Suicide is a global problem. Here are 2 statistics that, above all others, bring that point home. On average, someone in the world dies by suicide every 40 seconds. Just think about that - if you watched the above video, two people took their own lives during that time….. Do you think suicides aren’t a substantial problem? How about this then. More people worldwide die from suicide each year than by murder, warfare and natural disasters combined. And these statistics were compiled pre-Covid. Let’s face it, things are unlikely to have gotten better…..

The Origins of STEPS

As enthusiastic deliverers of Mental Health First Aid training, Kevin and Bob have always been keen to make a vital point - asking someone who’s struggling if they’re considering suicide saves lives. But as great as these mental health advocacy courses are, they just don’t have sufficient time to train people in how to have “the most difficult conversation of your life”. And that’s where STEPS was born. Kevin and Bob wanted to create a pneumonic that people could easily recall in that intense moment when their gut is screaming “danger”! We researched best practice around the world, and used the principles of the Government’s Self-Harm and Suicide Competence Framework to develop a conversational model. Through luck, destiny or the universe just being kind to us, that pneumonic spelt out STEPS. Off the back of this, the two of us created a one-day course aimed at gatekeepers, i.e. those members of the public who come into contact with people at increased risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts. This is not training aimed specifically at clinicians - it’s for everyday use. And so STEPS was born. But the story didn’t end there…..

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Partners

As things stood, we could have left it there. We were receiving requests for the training, and were happily delivering it around London.  But we asked ourselves whether we wanted to keep STEPS to ourselves, or to enable far greater delivery than two people could manage alone. We have a long-standing relationship with the Association of Employment & Learning Providers (AELP), and so we spoke to them about a goal of rolling the training out to other organisations. Through this, we were introduced to Lucy Dunleavy, CEO of LearnBox and, just before lockdown kicked in, we met and agreed a way forward. Lucy drew on her relationship with David Gallagher, CEO of NCFE, and a plan emerged…. STEPS was to become a nationally recognised, Ofqual-regulated qualification. And, to support its delivery, we aspired to make at least one iteration available through self-led learning - utilising LearnBox’s ability to create world-class digital content, and to host the course on their platform. And so 3 versions of STEPS came into being (see below). We launched the qualifications on World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 and continue to encourage colleges and independent learning providers to offer the training. The Level 2 is fully funded through the ESFA’s Adult Skills Budget, meaning the colleges/providers can offer the qualification to eligible learners at no cost to them.


As mentioned above, STEPS is a pneumonic. Each letter represents a stage in the suicide conversation, with the final letter standing for not one, but three elements.

As you can see, the first 4 stages of the conversation focus on identifying the problem - from the initial

exploration of what is causing the crisis, to the 4th stage where the gatekeeper is investigating the person’s

thoughts about their future. This opens the door to ask directly about thoughts of suicide, and then the

conversation switches to a solution focus.

STEPS Options

The partnership created three different qualifications around the STEPS model. They are: An Ofqual-regulated Level 2 Award in Suicide Awareness. This uses STEPS as a structure to better understand the suicidal mind, and to remove some of the huge stigma associated with the subject. Fully fundable by the ESFA, course duration: 2 days. An Ofqual-regulated Level 3 Award in STEPS; Towards Suicide Reduction. This is the gatekeeper course, designed to have participants using the model to have conversations with people who are struggling. Course duration: 1-2 days. An NCFE-accredited Level 4 in Delivering the STEPS Suicide Awareness &/or Reduction Programmes. Delivered exclusively by BDLD, Unit 1 is trainer-training in delivering the Level 2 (2 days duration), Unit 2 covers delivering the Level 3 (3 days duration). Any NCFE centre, with suitably qualified staff, can offer the Levels 2 & 3. As mentioned, the Level 2 is also available as a self-led course via LearnBox. It includes: High quality filmed content of Kevin and Bob delivering the course. Suicide survivor interview videos. All assessments embedded into the platform and automatically scored. Interested centres can find out more by contacting NCFE and/or LearnBox.