Jacob Manning waited until his wife and teenage son had left the house, then walked into his garage to kill himself.
The former soldier had been distraught for weeks, frustrated by family problems, unemployment and his lingering service injuries. He was long ago diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, caused by a military training accident, and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the aftermath. He had battled depression before, but never an episode this bad.
He tossed one end of an extension cord over the rafters above and then fashioned a noose.
The cord snapped. It couldn’t handle his weight.
He called Christina Roof, a friend and national veterans policy adviser who helped him years before, and rambled about trying again with a bigger cord or a gun. She urged him to calm down. She sent a message to Manning’s wife, Charity, telling her to rush home. The two of them tried for more than a day to persuade him to get professional help.
He eventually agreed to call the veterans hospital in Columbia, Mo., near his home.
When a staffer at the mental health clinic answered the phone, Manning explained what he had done, and asked if he could be taken into care.
The staffer asked if Manning was still suicidal. He wavered, saying he wasn’t trying to kill himself right then. The hospital employee told him the office was closing in an hour, and asked if Manning could wait until the next day to deal with the problem.
Manning hung up the phone.