In forensic psychiatry, as clincians, we will probably have to do with some examples of what mental can, and cannot, be. The task of further definitions belongs rather to philosophers, or the field of jurisprudence, or even to philology. It is interesting to try to grasp how the Greek and Latin words for mind, soul and spirit have evolved in the European languages, and often have come to refer to differnt or overlapping concepts in different contexts.
Psychiatry has also used several words, such as mind, psyche or senses, without clear definitions and without too much worries over distinctions. Historically, it has tended towards mind and mental in the Anglo-Saxon culture, and towards psyche, soul or senses in continental European or Scandianvian cultures (but these are merely tendencies, just as psychiatrist means "doctor of the soul" in English, references to "mental" are common in French, German or Swedish).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association (APA) described mental as: a) inner experiences, relating to mood, thought content, or sensory experiences, b) behavioural patterns, and c) cognitive functions such as learning, social understanding and reality assessment.
The first aspect, inner (subjective) experiences, denotes the inner life that a subject can be aware of. Mental representations are not limited to sequences of language but may be “iconic” or non-symbolic, merging sensory input with memories and emotions.
This blog post is partly excerpted from the paper "Mental disorder is a cause of crime" co-authored with Susanna Radovic, Christer Svennerlind, Pontus Höglund and Filip Radovic in 2009.