One thing I commonly see is that people with mental illness are judged. This judgment often characterizes the ill person as inferior, dangerous, dirty, lazy, not intelligent or in some other negative light. This is not only unfair, it also damages the self-esteem and confidence of the ill person. The judgment is then used to discriminate, shun or avoid the ill person. What is needed is empathy and compassion, not judgment.
Empathy and unconditional love helped me to understand and accept mental illness. Life was hell for a while but when I stopped to think what my daughter was experiencing; I saw things in a whole new light. I saw the truth. It was not her choice to get ill, her life is more messed up than mine, and I know she suffered a lot of fear, confusion, and loss of identity. She needed my unconditional love and empathy, not anger and disparagement. It took some time but when I convinced her that I was on her side in battling mental illness, our relationship improved greatly.
It was difficult much of the time to communicate with my daughter. She would either be quiet and non-communicative, or she would be angry and yelling at me. When she was quiet and withdrawn I learned to just sit and be with her until she was ready to talk. When she was angry I would often respond with anger until I learned the simple fact that anger either escalates or diminishes based upon the response. I learned to communicate by listening closely with empathy, and not automatically reacting without fully understanding what her immediate problem was. When I calmly responded she calmed down more quickly. I learned several techniques that I have described in an earlier section so I will not repeat them here. A key concept is that communication includes both listening and speaking. We all know that, but often our mind is busy forming a response rather than absorbing the significance of what is being said.