I dream of a world where one day people will be as willing to talk about their mental health issues as openly as one is willing to talk about cancer or heart health.
My name is Paton Blough. And I suffer from Type I Bipolar disorder, which I didn’t discover until the age of 26.
I was born in Japan and spent my early years in New Hampshire before my family settled in Nililchik, Alaska. When I was 14, I entered the workforce as a ship deckhand on a commercial fishing boat. Not solely satisfied with the big catch, I began working in the tree business with my older brother at the age of 16.
During the mid-1990s, I attended Bob Jones University for more than three years, primarily studying health, fitness and recreation. In 1998, I began my own tree business, which, within five years I built into a million-dollar plus company which managed multiple municipal contracts.
And then my illness caught up to me. Truth be told, the level of psychosis I have experienced during manic episodes in the last ten years would shock almost anyone. My experience with Bipolar Disorder rocked me to my core, but brought my closer to my rock, my savior, Jesus Christ.
After my tree business folded and a previous marriage ended, I kept my head up, even through tough times and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Luckily I met the former Marie Dunn, whom I refer to as my “earthly rock and joy,” and married her in 2009. With her help, I got plugged into a number of groups such as NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) and Greenville Mental Health, and enlisted the support of a helpful therapist and enjoyed the love of a great family.
I have personally chosen as a part of my recovery model to bluntly tell stories about the peaks of my episodes that I remember quite well. I have felt the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I should not be alive from either suicide during times of depression, or from my incredibly reckless behavior from times of mania.
But I believe that God has preserved me for a purpose, and that purpose is to share my story with others to provide inspiration and hope while providing education about mental health.
I also envision myself as a voice for everyone who has dealt first hand with the incredible weight of the stigma of mental illness. I reject any and all stigma, and I identify it as the number one inhibitor of people with mental health issues to not seek out the help they may desperately need.
Stigma also causes people with mental illness to think they have character flaws, as opposed to a medical condition that may cause behavior irregularities. I dream of a world where one day people will be as willing to talk about their mental health issues as openly as one is willing to talk about cancer or heart health.
I believe my story provides a balanced model of recovery that looks at all vital mental health issues. Including self awareness, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals, counseling and therapy, diet and routine, honesty with loved ones and accountability, and most importantly God.
Despite having had multiple encounters with law enforcement, I am now training some of those same officers on how to de-escalate encounters with those suffering from mental illness. I have felt the physical pain of my problems but have also felt the joy of helping others while saving them from some of their pain and perhaps their lives.
Awards & Accomplishments
Paton Blough has provided Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to more than 2000 police officers, correctional officers, and first responders since 2009. Having been arrested six times and undergone six psychiatric hospitalizations due to his bipolar disorder between 2004-2008, he uses his experiences to show people how to properly handle someone in crisis and as evidence that recovery is possible. Blough founded Rehinge.com, an online forum that raises awareness about mental health issues, fights stigma, and bands advocates together behind common sense legislation. In 2015, he initiated the South Carolina Mental Health Court Program Act, eventually driving the legislation all the way to the governor’s desk. Blough graduated from the Greenville, South Carolina, Mental Health Court in 2007, received the South Carolina National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Recovery Member of the Year award in 2011 and the NAMI South Carolina Sitgma Buster of the Year award in 2014, and now serves on the Greenville SC CIT Board, the South Carolina NAMI State Board, and a NAMI Expert Advisory Group. He has spoken nationally about CIT and mental health recovery to, or on behalf of, groups like the Police Executive Research Forum, the SC Police Chiefs Association, NAMI, CIT International, the South Carolina Bar Association, and the Stepping Up Initiative. In addition to public speaking, Paton is currently working on his book, further mental health reform legislation, running for Congress and building an instructional de-escalation video series.