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The Costs of Mental Ill-Health and of Children with Special Needs – A Tribute to the Late Reverend Simon House

by David E Marsh

Originally published in Positive Health issue 294 - May 2024


Simon’s meticulous work on optimum nutrition for brain health and pre- and perinatal nutrition describes how the health of both father and mother is critical during at least 6 months before conception, and that of the mother during pregnancy and 4 years after birth for the best outcomes for having happy, healthy children.


Simon HouseSimon House
The Late Reverend Simon H House from his website https://www.havinghappychildren.org


Many prospective couples are not aware of this. Simon produced a very fine PowerPoint presentation, understandable at two levels, by intelligent teenagers and by professionals describing the crucial months before conception, during the pregnancy and beyond. He gave this lecture at the many conferences he was invited to speak at, including the Royal Society of Medicine in 2022. It should be taught in schools, for late teenagers... for many could be parents within a few years.

He and Roy Ridgeway wrote a book, The Unborn Child: Beginning a Whole Life and Overcoming Problems of Early Origin https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429483578) in 2006 which was a landmark with vital messages and information for parents, potential parents and grandparents, as well as professionals with responsibility for children, and bringing babies into the world. It was translated into several languages.

His understanding of epigenetics (previously known as Environmentally Induced Modification: the term popularised by geneticist Conrad H Waddington in 1942) was recognised by his being invited to contribute a chapter to the first edition of the Handbook of Epigenetics,(see references, below) Simon described how preconception care is not a new idea “as good feeding before conception has been practised for thousands of generations – for farm animals – if not always for humans!” (https://www.havinghappychildren.org)

For some time I have been writing about the cost of mental ill-health, and the truth struck home recently when I realized how many children are being born with special needs.

I watched a video showing an exercise class for 50 young teenagers with special needs. It was a thought provoking experience. This sombre video was followed a few weeks later by a news broadcast explaining that almost ten percent of working age people today were not seeking work as they had medical exemptions stating they had some type of mental disorder. In the Horizon programme on BBC TV 1 8 pm ( Mon 18th March 2024) they describe the terrifying costs to parents and local councils involved in bringing up and educating children with Special Needs... Not to mention the shortage of teachers and school places, as more and more special needs children are being born. The situation is alarming.

The work of Simon House, his lectures and publications over the last 40 or more years, describe how crucial nutrition is for both the father and mother six months before conception, and of course for the mother during foetal growth and for the first few years life. During the recent Covid pandemic, in a Zoom conference at the RSM in 2022, Simon presented costs to the country of mental ill-health, including costs of special needs children showing the increase over the previous decade. The enormous cost of mental ill health was over twice the £110 billion estimated by the DoH in 2010, a cost greater than heart disease and cancer combined. For this the RSM proposed Simon receiving their Meritorious Services to Global Mental Health.

Having known and worked with Simon House for 30 years, much of this within the well-known 'McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health’ (https://www.mccarrison.com), and the Mother and Child Foundation, chaired at the time by Dr Michael A Crawford, currently visiting Professor at Imperial College, London. Simon and Michael had met in the 1980s: Michael Crawford had already published his ideas on the costs of mental health in 1972 (In the 'Food We Eat Today': Crawford M, Crawford, S.)

The Royal Society Of Medicine

Simon and Michael were both elected to the committee of the Food & Health Forum of the Royal Society of Medicine pre-Covid. The conference they planned had to be held as a webinar on Thursday 23 June 2022, which included Simon’s powerful PowerPoint presentation described above. However, Simon rightly pointed out large missing costs such as cerebral palsy and violent behaviour.

Simon described the stages of development of the brain in the womb, which has ‘windows of opportunity’ that depend on specific nutrients being available at certain stages. For example the embryo at 3 weeks is a disk which needs folic acid or vitamin B9 for complete sealing of what will become the spinal cord. Absence of these nutrients can result in spina bifida, cleft palate and limb reduction.

Similarly with the fatty acid omega 3 Docosahexaenoic acid: if this is lacking in sufficient quantities in the mother’s diet during gestation, the child will be born with 'special needs'. Sadly either through ignorance, poverty or otherwise the number of special needs children being born is rising exponentially, so costs are not only spiralling, but driving a number of local councils to bankruptcy as they are legally responsible for special needs childrens’ education. Many do not realize that omega 3 DHA is very different to omega 3 (see http://davidmarsh.org.uk/?Articles___Fats_and_the_Brain); also https://www.positivehealth.com/article/essential-fatty-acids/essential-fatty-acids-in-the-evolution-of-the-brain.

Two good friends and colleagues of Simon, Dr Rachel V Gow and Dr Alex Richardson, have both set up charities furthering Simon’s and Michael’s work. See Rachel's Nutritious Minds and https://thinkthroughnutrition.org/dr-rachel-gow and Dr Alex Richardson's Food and Brain Research, Oxford. FABResearch: https://www.fabresearch.org/.

During writing this piece I have heard Simon’s voice quietly protesting “Much of this tribute should be directed at Michael Crawford, for he is the Pathfinder who warned of these dire happenings over 50 years ago in his and his first wife Sheilagh's 1972 book “The Food We Eat Today”. The Times reviewer commented “if these warnings are not heeded we will become a nation of morons”. Such language was permitted fifty years ago; now we speak a kinder language of 'special needs children and adults'.

In conclusion, with a growing understanding of the true value of the environment, from the erroneous conclusions drawn from the neo-Darwinism of the last decade of the 19th century, through the entire 20th century and the first decade of the 21st to the ultimate understanding of epigenetics in 2011, Simon's work has been at the cutting edge of research. It will take some time before his brilliance is fully understood. (ref: House SH, Epigenetics in Adaptive Evolution and Development, pp 423-425. Chapter 26: in Handbook of Epigenetics 2011, Tollefsbol; The Shrinking Brain: Crawford & Marsh, 2023; Marsh DE, Does our Current Understanding of Epigenetics Now Expose Neo-Darwinism as Pseudo-Science? Positive Health Online issue 290 - November 2023; https://www.davidmarsh.org.uk).

Publications by Simon House include:

Transgenerational healing: Educating children in genesis of healthy children, with focus on nutrition, emotion, and epigenetic effects on brain development. Nutrition & Health: 22(1): 9-45. Jan 2013. doi: 10.1177/0260106013506666. Epub 8 July 2014. PMID: 25005446

Epigenetics in Adaptive Evolution and Development, in Handbook of Epigenetics 2011, Tollefsbol. Also Nutrition & Health (2014 ) 23(1). Nurture of the brain.

Inst of Brain Chemistry & Human Nutrition – https://www.ibchn.org.uk/

McCarrison Society for Nutrition & Health – https://mccarrison.com/

Royal Society of Medicine – Food & Health Council - https://www.rsm.ac.uk/

Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health – N. America – https://birthpsychology.com/

Child Health International – www.childhealthinternational.org/




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