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 10,641 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 instrument.
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.