The mentally ill person is not a child. I have had the experience of would-be helpers who treated me so. When I attempted to describe what I needed, they argued and belittled me for needing help. I felt very alone and one result was that I stayed away from the church where this person was not only a member, but an officer of sorts. It was hard for me to treat him with charity. I turned my back when he greeted me afterwards because I could not stand his hypocrisy.
We are sensitive about being patronized because of our condition for the same reasons that African Americans are sensitive about race. No one wants to be excluded on the basis of a condition that he cannot help. No one wants his condition denied. No one wants to feel cut away from the body politic. What we want is for people to take us seriously whether or not we are in episode.
Many of the problems that people have with the mentally ill have to do with communication. Those who wish to help (and those who do not want to help) believe that the objective of interaction is to get the mentally ill person to follow a treatment plan or pull herself up by her bootstraps or realize that it is “all in your mind”. (“Have you tried not being depressed?”).