In the last decade, there has been an increase in interest in the burden of chronic and disabling health conditions that are not necessarily fatal, such as the mental disorders. This review systematically summarizes data on the burden associated with 11 major mental disorders of adults. The measures of burden include estimates of prevalence, mortality associated with the disorders, disabilities and impairments related to the disorders, and costs. This review expands the range of mental disorders considered in a report on the global burden of disease, updates the literature, presents information on the range and depth of sources of information on burden, and adds estimates of costs. The purpose is to provide an accessible guide to the burden of mental disorders, especially for researchers and policy makers who may not be familiar with this subfield of epidemiology.