One Man’s Struggle with a Hidden Illness

Joel Willis is speaking out today to increase awareness of the private battle against anxiety that many Australians face every day.

Mr. Willis considers himself a regular twenty-one year old Australian. If you were to pass him on the street you wouldn’t be able to guess at the rebellion of his own body as he tries to go about his everyday life.

Mr. Willis is a sufferer of high-functioning anxiety. This illness shares similar traits to other anxiety disorders, however, is much harder to detect as the sufferers rarely express visible symptoms. As a result, many cases can go undetected. Mr. Willis has taken up the cause to tell all Australians that anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed by.


Joel thinks of himself as a regular guy, who likes football, hiking and photography,

Joel thinks of himself as a regular guy, who likes football, hiking and photography,

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in young Australians. Mr. Willis has come forward now to plead with other Australians that might suffer from the same illness that there is no shame in getting help.


People with anxiety disorders like Joel often suffer in silence.

People with anxiety disorders like Joel often suffer in silence.

“It was so hard for me to come forward for help, it wasn’t until my first full-blown anxiety attack that I really had the strength to see a professional. I want people to know they don’t need to wait that long” Mr. Willis had to say.

Mr Willis’ high school best friend Ethan Dunne, 21, had this to say about Mr. Willis, “I didn’t know that there was anything out of the ordinary with Joel, I thought he was just like any other moody 16-year-old.”

“He never told us that he got diagnosed or that he started getting help, but his grades started to improve, and he stopped skipping class so much” Mr. Dunne added.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that 1 in 5 females aged 16-24 years and 1 in 10 men from the same age range are affected. By offering his story for a video, Mr. Willis wanted to give a human face to a subject that is so common yet so taboo in Australia today.

“It’s not a subject that’s easy to talk about, but it’s important. I want people that see the video to be able to tell their loved ones when they’re not alright.” Mr. Willis commented.

“Joel has grown so much from that nervous 17-year-old boy- treatment has helped him that much that it is really is a conversation we need to be having,” said Mr. Dunne.

The battle against mental illness is a long one, but everyday Australian’s like Mr. Willis are helping us get one step closer.

If you or any of your loved ones are suspected of suffering from anxiety, Headspace offers a wealth of information to help.

Want to know more? Check out the Twitter stream for behind-the-scenes insight: 


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