Background. The Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being was designed to
detect and describe psychiatric morbidity, associated disability, service use and perceived need for
care. The survey employed a single-phase interview methodology, delivering a field questionnaire
to a clustered probability sample of 10641 Australians. Perceived need was sampled with an
instrument designed for this survey, the Perceived Need for Care Questionnaire (PNCQ). This
questionnaire gathers information about five categories of perceived need, assigning each to one of
four levels of perceived need. Reliability and validity studies showed satisfactory performance of the
Methods. Perceived need for mental health care in the Australian population has been analysed
using PNCQ data, relating this to diagnostic and service utilization data from the above survey.
Results. The survey findings indicate that an estimated 13·8% of the Australian population have
perceived need for mental health care. Those who met interview criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis
and also expressed perceived need make up 9·9% of the population. An estimated 11·0% of the
population are cases of untreated prevalence, a minority (3·6% of the population) of whom
expressed perceived need for mental health care. Among persons using services, those without a
psychiatric diagnosis based on interview criteria (4·4% of the population), showed high levels of
perceived met need.
Conclusions. The overall rate of perceived need found by this methodology lies between those found
in the USA and Canada. The findings suggest that service use in the absence of diagnosis elicited
by survey questionnaires may often represent successful intervention. In the survey, untreated
prevalence was commonly not accompanied by perceived need for mental health care.