Chris Harrison on Featuring 'Sincere' BLM, Addiction & Suicide Conversations on 'The Bachelorette' (Exclusive)

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Chris Harrison
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This season of The Bachelorette feels different. Over the last few weeks, viewers have watched Tayshia Adams engage in serious conversations with her contestants about topics like racism and Black Lives Matter, addiction, eating disorders, family estrangements and suicide attempts -- and host Chris Harrison thinks it's "great for people to see that" represented on TV. 

The longtime Bachelor franchise host noted to ET's Lauren Zima that over the years, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have provided platforms for important issues (like sexual assault and consent, religion and more). Production always encourages contestants to "bare their soul," but what they want to share -- or whether they want to at all -- is up to them. 

"If it is Black Lives Matter, if it is Ben [Smith] and going through his mental health, we embrace it and we encourage that. We want those conversations," Chris explained. "I think The Bachelor and Bachelorette is always a sign of the times, not vice versa... we're a microcosm of what’s' going on out there, and obviously Black Lives Matter and racial injustices and where that stands is a huge topic, as is mental health and what is happening in the world right now." 

"These are topics that are affecting everybody in the world right now, so yeah, it should bleed into the pages of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette," he added. "We encourage that."

The show does have a mental health professional available to cast members 24/7 should they need it, and they "often do," Chris revealed. 

"And they're available after the show is over, if you need somebody to lean on," he shared. "We're always very careful and we really do try to take care of everybody on the show, on camera and off camera." 

Sometimes, just opening up to the lead can help a contestant feel heard and supported -- like in the case of Ben. The Army veteran shared with Tayshia on Tuesday's episode that he had two failed suicide attempts, and that his sister, unbeknownst to her, helped him get through it. 

"We just watched that incredibly compelling conversation when he bared his soul to Tayshia," Chris says. "It was kind of cathartic. I talked to him in the last few days, and it really meant a lot to him that we gave him that stage and he was embraced in that way." 

"Often times, we know the backstory or we know that there is something underneath. Will they always go there? No," he explains. "We encourage them to talk about whatever they want but... you can't make somebody bare their soul like that."

At the end of the day, it's all up to whoever is sharing. 

"Either Ben is going to feel comfortable in that space and give that to Tayshia, or he's not. Either Zac [Clark] is going to come clean and talk about his substance abuse and addiction, or he's not. That is in the moment and so you can't force that on anybody," Chris repeated, before noting how these honest moments can connect with viewers. 

"I like the show better. I think it's more sincere, more real, more relatable with these real human beings who seem like they're perfect on the outside... are not perfect," he said. "I think it's great for people to see that." 

The Bachelorette airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. 

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