Husband of woman who killed herself and couple’s child says she was ‘screaming for help’ but not getting it

Darren Coleman says his wife, Nicola Keane, was not a monster but a ‘really, really ill person’

The husband of a woman who killed herself and the couple’s child has said he is trying not to view her as a monster, but as a “really, really ill person, a frightened person, who was screaming for help but not getting the help”.

Earlier this month, the Health Service Executive (HSE) apologised to the family of 34-year-old Nicola Keane, who had severe postnatal depression and psychosis. Ms Keane killed her baby son Henry and took her own life in 2020.

Her husband, Darren Coleman, sued Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) and the HSE over the circumstances leading to the death of his wife and the aftermath.

CHI denied all claims, but the HSE admitted a breach of duty by failing to appreciate that Ms Keane had suffered from psychotic depression, failing to communicate this to her husband and failing to ensure she received in-patient treatment before October 13th, 2020.


In an interview on Sunday, Mr Coleman said on the night his son and wife died, it was a “normal Wednesday for us”, and Ms Keane was looking after Henry in the spare room to settle him.

“Next thing I remember was being woken in the middle of the night by knocking at the door and seeing the Garda lights outside ... I shouted for Nicola and said ‘the Guards are at the door’ but I just continued downstairs ... they said they found [Nicola’s] car and I just said, ‘Where’s Henry?’,” he told RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday with Miriam.

“They had a confused look on their heads, so I ran straight upstairs and found Henry. I knew he was dead. I held him. He was floppy in my arms, there was blood under his nose – he was gone at that stage, I knew that. So, I just said goodbye and I brought him downstairs. The guards and the paramedics said they’d do CPR, but I knew he was dead at that stage, I could feel it, there was no life in him.”

Initially, Mr Coleman said he “couldn’t comprehend what happened” and while anger did come into the situation after the fact, “it was definitely confusion”.

“I’ve been going to counselling ... It’s very important to talk. It’s allowed me to talk about things I never talked about before. Not to see Nicola as this monster, but as a really, really ill person, a frightened person, who was screaming for help but not getting the help,” he said.

Mr Coleman was critical of the mental health system in Ireland, saying he was not informed of the likely diagnosis of psychosis, and that Ms Keane did not receive the number of face to face visits she was promised.

“The enormous gap is in the care being given to those that are suffering from depression, or postnatal depression, or psychosis,” he said.

“That’s where the HSE and the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Butler, that’s where they have to prioritise things ... it’s how the State is responding to seriously ill people, like Nicola – that’s where the mental health system is broken.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times