A suicide prevention initiative that calls on military veterans to check in on their mates is a runaway success that resonates more powerfully than the R U OK campaign, the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has been told.
The inquiry heard on Wednesday the "check your mates" mantra, developed by a Townsville-based veterans suicide prevention group, Operation Compass, was gaining traction around the world.
"Check your mates is a direction, R U OK? is a question," Operation Compass chair John Caligari told the commission, which is conducting its fifth block of public hearings in Townsville.
"We particularly ran this during the Anzac period and Remembrance Day periods, which are typically the periods we worry the most about those who are at risk in the veteran community.
"At the last count some of those videos have now hit more than five million hits."
Mr Caligari, a veteran of 36 years and former commander of the 3rd Combat Brigade in Townsville, told the inquiry he and a group of other ex-servicemen had targeted the demographic who were the hardest to reach - young veterans.
He said men aged between 18 and 24 who had been medically discharged from the ADF also had the highest rate of suicide.
"They are the sort of people who will not ask for help until they really, really need it ..." Mr Caligari said.
"If you are a soldier, sailor or aviator in the Defence Force you are pretty proud of yourself.
"If young men are not help-seeking to start with, we've now got a cohort of people who are even less help-seeking."
Commissioner Peggy Brown told Mr Caligari she found it striking the number of veterans heard at the hearings who needed to learn to love themselves.
"Many have expressed to us a sense of having, as you said, 'let the team down', or having failed in some way," Dr Brown said.
"I think (it is) a reflection of more that they have experienced some form of damage, often physical but often psychological, associated with their many years of dedicated service."
Australian Associated Press
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