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Measuring speech pauses to help suicidal patients

Vol. 1, No. 10 / October 2002

Alex Vuckovic, MD, recommends negotiating daily telephone contact with acutely depressed patients at risk for suicide (Pearls, August).

Psychomotor retardation in depression can be monitored by recording speech hesitation pauses of 1 second or more, 4.79+/−2.48 per minute, 1.50+/−0.33 seconds (mean +/−standard deviation). These behavioral correlates of mood in telephone dialogues reflect neuronal activity and firing.

This precise, objective computerized method also may help to verify pausing before embarking on stress management in treating mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia in men. Such psychosocial treatment offers substantial and immediate clinical and economic benefits (Am J Cardiol 2002;90:86-7).

Ernest H. Friedman, MD
East Cleveland, OH

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