“Mens sana in corpore sano” — “a sound mind in a sound body” — was the ancient Roman ideal of good health or, from that dualistic viewpoint, a life worth living.

Christians have always embraced an even broader and deeper perspective on the value of every human life, which essentially includes not only experience past (memory) and present, but also looks forward in hope toward an eternal future of happiness and fulfillment.

Our belief is that holiness — or human wholeness — is the promise and destiny of every human life, created in the image and likeness of God, if we accept the help of God’s grace poured out for us.

“Grace builds on nature” is a fundamental theological understanding that not only affirms the beauty of the physical and psychological aspects of human life, but its intimate connection with our spiritual reality. There is no dualism in authentic Christian living, which would compartmentalize or separate any of the interwoven components of our human nature.

We know the truth of this from our everyday experience. If some injury or illness besets us, we know all too well how it affects our entire being. The answers routinely given to the question, “How are you?” are among the least candid and reliable gauges of the actual state of health of the people we encounter every day. Even when the response is, “Fine,” we may sense otherwise, knowing full well that absence of awareness of any particularly physical complaint does not mean wellness or sanity.

Many among us suffer from a spiritual and emotional malaise or torment that is not easily relieved by the brief “hello” or even a quick fix, whether physician- or self-prescribed.

As we enter Mental Health Awareness Week (Oct. 7-13), we want to be mindful of those among us who suffer in silence from the pain and ravages of the many forms of mental illness.

Whether the experience is one of depression or obsession, feelings of isolation or being disconnected, it is not often easy to know how to reach the heart of the matter, which cannot be located in any one part of the person. When we are not well — spiritually, emotionally or physically — the whole person is affected, as well as both intimate and casual relationships.

Many resources are available at community and parish levels today. I want to take this opportunity to invite each of us to bear in mind how often Jesus encountered persons afflicted with various ailments and sought to comfort them.

Scholars may debate whether the people Jesus encountered were possessed by demons, physically sick, mentally ill or even just ill-willed. Jesus never put diagnostic labels on persons; rather, he went out of his way to be with people who were often shunned or excluded by others because of their mental, physical or spiritual infirmity — often all three — and he consoled them with his presence and healing touch.

With whoever comes our way or comes into our mind this week whom we may recognize as suffering at a level of illness they many not easily express in words, we want to ask God for the patience, understanding and kindness that Jesus expects of his disciples.

More often than not, it is the terrible sense of being excluded or disconnected that plagues our sisters and brothers suffering from various mental and emotional disturbances. Jesus himself counseled prayer and fasting as prime way of driving out even demonic forces, which we would have to be almost blind not to see in our world today.

We have become acutely aware, in our time, of those who suffer from the ravages of sexual abuse, especially children and vulnerable adults. Added to the emotional and spiritual burdens are the pain of shame and the disruption of bonds of trust. Many survivors want to participate in the process of healing and restorative justice. Giving them not only an ear but a voice is something that each of us is called to do in some way.

The important thing to remember is that every one of us can and should play a part in the process of healing that is an essential component of our mission as disciples of Christ. It begins with awareness and empathy, but must also embrace prayer and action; personal patience and sacrifice; timely referral to the help available from community resources and professional services; and, most of all, accompaniment.

God, after all, saves us through us, present in the person and mission of Jesus Christ, who lives in the hearts of each of us through baptism and connects us to one another in his mystical body, which is his Church. Reaching out to those among us who are suffering in silence from mental and emotional illness is one of the most effective ways for us to evangelize, to make the healing power of our Gospel mission felt with its most personal and powerful force.

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)