A prominent Greenville, South Carolina mental health advocate and aspiring politician has been arrested again … and this time, his worsening mental condition is beginning to force those who have supported him for years to sever ties.
Paton Blough was arrested and charged with contempt of court on Friday afternoon after allegedly violating orders that enjoined him from further harassing his ex-wife, Upstate businesswoman Marie Dunn-Blough.
Paton Blough’s latest arrest stems from the aftermath of a widely publicized incident last August in which the 42-year-old advocate was jailed on charges of second-degree domestic violence and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct. He has denied the allegations which led to the filing of these charges, referring to them as “factually false.”
Dunn-Blough is the president of Redhype, a successful Greenville, S.C.-based marketing and advertising agency. Paton Blough is the leader of Rehinge, a Greenville-based nonprofit that “exists to provide hope, education, and spiritual inspiration for all people affected with mental health issues and to fight stigma while pushing for global mental health reform,” according to its website.
That’s a noble goal … and Blough appears to have been an effective advocate on any number of mental health issues in the past, via his own organization as well as through his position on the South Carolina board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Unfortunately, Blough’s own type one bipolar disorder – a diagnosis he has lived with for more than a dozen years – continues to manifest itself in the form of what witnesses are describing as increasingly desperate, delusional and dangerous manic episodes.
Hell, Blough (below) admits as much …
(Click to view)
“The level of psychosis I have experienced during manic episodes in the last ten years would shock almost anyone,” Blough wrote on his own website.
Well … anyone other than those who have been living through these episodes.
“I had to draw a line in the sand,” one of Blough’s longtime friends wrote this week in a letter to Upstate solicitor Walt Wilkins, whose office has inherited the unenviable task of figuring out what to do with this combustible situation.
Several others close to Blough have echoed that sentiment, saying he has recently “gone off the deep end” and become “very unpredictable.”
There is no cure for bipolar disorder. It can be treated to some extent with medication, although those afflicted with it often refuse to take their pills as prescribed – an issue commonly referred to as “treatment compliance.” Also, bipolar episodes tend to become more frequent and severe over time – often progressing into what is referred to as “rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.” Such episodes routinely lead to the sort of psychoses Blough referenced on his website.
Sources familiar with Blough’s situation tell us he often refused to take his medication, which served to escalate his condition. Even worse, they say he frequently uses his disorder “as an excuse to act out on people who surround him.”
One even told us Blough had “learned to use his illness to manipulate.”
Obviously he does not see it that way …
“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,” Blough wrote on his website.
He also noted that “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.”
Blough does have several friends in local law enforcement in Greenville, as well as several allies in the local mainstream media.
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Amidst his latest manic episode, Blough was sentenced to sixty days behind bars on the contempt charge – with no bond. The very next morning, though, his Facebook page featured a status update (ostensibly written by Blough himself) alerting his followers as to his plight.
“I’m in jail now but I have a secret agent working for me,” an entry posted at 10:27 a.m. EST noted.
What in the world?
Blough initiated a lengthy, on-the-record exchange with the founding editor of this news outlet on February 6. And while we are declining to publish any of the specific allegations he made, his correspondence hinted at corruption involving numerous elected and appointed officeholders – all of whom he claimed were part of an Upstate prostitution ring organized by several prominent Greenville County businessmen.
Blough even referenced one statewide official who was allegedly mixed up in the ring.
“I hope a dozen people end up indicted,” Blough told our founding editor, Will Folks.
Additional missives hinted at other wide-ranging conspiracies, although the strands of the various narratives became increasingly difficult to follow. The only common denominator? They all seemed to tie back to Blough’s image of himself as a crusading hero – one constantly facing retaliation, recrimination and threats to his life and livelihood as he pursued the myriad injustices around him.
And they all sought to incriminate his ex-wife and portray her in the most negative light possible.
The deeper we dug, the crazier things got.
In one particularly off-kilter message to our founding editor, Blough encouraged him to solicit information from his ex-wife that would have actually been extremely incriminating to Blough had it been published. He later acknowledged his own inability to process everything he was saying.
“I’m not thinking straight at the moment,” he wrote.
We reached out to Dunn-Blough in an effort to get her perspective on everything, but she declined to speak to us citing recent court agreements that prohibited her from making comments about her ex-husband.
According to Dunn-Blough’s friends, though, she has always supported Blough and Rehinge’s mission – which is what compelled her to stay silent year-after-year as his multiple manic episodes began to take aim at her business, her reputation, her sanity and (eventually) her physical safety.
(Click to view)
Over the last six months, the statuesque 40-year-old marketing executive (above) finally surrendered to the reality of her situation – with her friends telling us she is ready to accept whatever fallout comes from making a clean break with Blough.
“It’s always been like this,” one of Dunn-Blough’s friends told us. “A streak of good months and then manic issues with the law and conspiracy theories until he ends up in a mental hospital. Then he comes home and is normal for a little bit until it all starts again.”
Another of Dunn-Blough’s friends said Paton Blough’s behavior has worsened over the years.
“Don’t get me wrong he tried to do some good things but it just hasn’t worked out for him and now I am really worried about Marie,” the friend told us. “He’s losing ground and I feel like once he loses everything he will end up going postal. Marie has helped him hold it together for ten years.”
Dunn-Blough’s friends tell us she “just wants peace” – and are hopeful that an amicable divorce agreement drawn up and signed by both parties prior to Paton Blough’s latest incarceration will serve as the basis for such a peaceful coexistence.
We hope so too, but that would assume Dunn-Blough is dealing with a rational actor … which we clearly do not believe to be the case.
In the letter sent to Wilkins, Blough’s former friend described him as someone who “bullies people when they don’t agree with him, even when they have been his lifelong friend.”
“He needs guided help with lawful restraints,” the ex-friend wrote. “I don’t know what that looks like in the eyes of a solicitor, but that’s the best way I can put it.”
We don’t know what that looks like, either, but it is abundantly clear to us that Blough desperately needs restraints … literal ones. Actually, what Blough needs looking long-term is serious, sustained clinical attention – and we sincerely hope he gets it before he hurts himself or someone else.
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