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The Bachelorette: Army Veteran Shares Mental Health Journey With Star Tayshia Adams – Hollywood Reporter

Ben Smith, a former military officer and current fitness coach, put his vulnerability on display with the ABC star: “I was very scared about sharing all of those things, and I’m okay. That’s pretty cool.”

[This episode contains mild spoilers from the Dec. 8 episode of ABC’s The Bachelorette.]

The Bachelorette continued to spotlight serious topics in its latest episode.

Ever since Tayshia Adams’ mid-season takeover as the new star of season 16, the ABC reality series has devoted air time to a range of emotional and relevant discussions. In perhaps a reflection of the older crop of contestants that were cast for original Bachelorette star Clare Crawley, who left the show after an early engagement, the men who are left competing for Adams’ final rose have opened up to the biracial star in ways that have made for several powerful onscreen moments.

On the previous episode, Adams, who is the first Black and Latina star of the long-running franchise, and her conversation with biracial contestant Ivan Hall pushed the ABC series into rare territory. The pair opened up to each other about their upbringings and how this summer’s Black Lives Matter movement has impacted their lives. In previous years, the series has shied away from spotlighting racial or political conversations, particularly because people of color have rarely been in the starring role. Elsewhere in that episode, contestant Zac Clark opened up about his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and Ben Smith confided in Adams about his years-long battle with an eating disorder.

On Tuesday’s episode, Smith, who is an Army veteran, further opened up to Adams about his past, telling her that he had two failed suicide attempts in 2018 and 2019.

Smith left home when he was 18 and joined the Army. The West Point and U.S. Army Ranger School graduate became a fitness coach after transitioning out of the military, and now focuses on public speaking as well as nutrition.

During the episode, he opened up about that transitional time in his life. “[The year] 2018 was a rough year for me,” he explained. “I had left a career that I thought I was going to be in forever. The Army didn’t end up working out for me, for a number of reasons. but I ended up breaking my back pretty bad. I’m 26 years old and I can barely walk up the steps. I was living in a city that was too expensive for me and I was completely lost. My life was very dark and I didn’t know how to say that I needed things. The only person I confided in was my sister.”

Smith said that his sister is unaware of his failed attempts.

“I didn’t want to burden anybody with my problems. And I thought that the easiest way was to just not be around. Luckily, it didn’t work,” he continued. “And the only thing that got me through that was [my sister] and she has no idea. She saved my life. I owe her everything.”

Speaking to Adams on what would become a national stage, he told the star, “Through being very intentional and very aggressive with my therapy, the person you see before you today isn’t that person. It’s insane that I just told you that, because I don’t tell people that. I was very scared about sharing all of those things, and I’m okay. That’s pretty cool.”

Adams responded to Smith’s vulnerability by giving him one of the show’s signature red roses as a token of her affection. “I see you. I hear you. I’ve been wanting you to open up to me and I’ve been wanting to get to know you. You are an amazing person,” she said.

After, she told the camera she was falling in love with Smith.

When the show cut to a commercial break, The Bachelorette ran a PSA sharing information on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, encouraging viewers to call 1-800-273-TALK or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org if they, or someone they know, is struggling or in crisis.

The Bachelorette, which filmed its current season in a COVID-free bubble, returns next week with new episodes on Monday and Tuesday night (at 8 p.m. on ABC) as Adam continues to narrow down her contestants and meet their families.

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