Television host Chris Harrison, best known for ABC’s “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and the resulting spin-offs, emceed a fundraiser for Carmel-based nonprofit AIM Youth Mental Health during Car Week in August in Pebble Beach. The gala raised just under $800,000 for “innovative and promising research to find better treatments and cures for youth struggling with their mental health.” Carmel Magazine caught up with Harrison shortly after the event.
Q: At the AIM gala, you shared a very personal story about your family friend, Grant Halliburton, who committed suicide at 19. How did you get involved with AIM?
A: When I was playing golf at Pebble Beach, I heard about AIM, and it was a great connection because I am involved with the Grant Halliburton Foundation in Dallas, which is where I’m from… As I learned later, the CEO of the Foundation has been out to Pebble Beach and has gone through all the research that’s being done at AIM. The Halliburton Foundation is based on Grant, who struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, and there was just nothing for kids, nothing for youth. It is a massive epidemic…It’s just such a taboo subject…we don’t want to talk about suicide at dinner parties or events…Sadly, it needs to be talked about to be fixed…
Q: Probably people feel they don’t know how to help because they don’t have the training or tools, or they’re so uncomfortable with the subject that they just don’t know what to offer.
A: It’s a tough thing. I think more and more you see this generation, my kids, there is so much more put on them, but at the same time…they are realizing mental health is huge. But to our defense, the adults that were in that room, if you say, ‘Hey, what are you going to do to help the victims of Hurricane Dorian?’ Well, there’s a million things you can do, from Rubicon to Red Cross to DirectRelief…But if I say, ‘What do you do to help mental health? How do you help to prevent suicide?’ you’re kind of stumped…It’s great that an organization like AIM or the Grant Halliburton Foundation is out there now, because there is a place to go, there is a place to give, there’s research being done, doctors are working on this…
Q: What do you think, besides donating and educating, that we can do as adults to make it a little bit better for kids, who as you pointed out, are under so much pressure?
A: Far be it from me to tell anybody how to parent, because Lord knows we are all just trying to make it through the day with our kids, and every one of them is different…The one thing we all can do is be present and try to notice behavioral changes…I know it’s easier said than done, but try and have open dialogue and conversation with your kids…having those dinners where everyone puts down those devices…
Q: Switching topics, you come up here for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. What is it about this area that you enjoy the most?
A: I grew up in Dallas with fairly humble means and we didn’t travel much, and I didn’t come to California until I was a grown adult…Pebble Beach always represented this Shangri-La, this heavenly place…I saw it on my television once a year during the Clambake, what’s now the AT&T…So when I got to go up there for the first time and walk the grounds of Pebble Beach and then play golf there, it was emotional…Pebble Beach and the whole Carmel area is so romantic, so magnificent, it really does exceed your expectations. For me, there’s never a time that I don’t drive up there…and feel goosebumps…This might sound silly, but I feel like the air’s a little sweeter. Everything is just a little bit more spectacular, even on the terrible days when the wind is blowing and it’s raining…It’s just this place…that I never dreamed I would actually get to be a part of. Not only to have been there, but having had the honor of being invited to play in the AT&T, alongside those pros, alongside those celebrities…I always feel at some point, someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Mr. Harrison, we figured out who you are. You need to leave.’
Q: How many times have you made it this far without that happening?
A: Well, two and a half I’m going to call it. The first time, three years ago…I was the first alternate. For me, that was the greatest thing that had ever happened in my life…I didn’t actually get to play, but I got to hang out all week, which was honestly just as good. And then [in 2018], I played with Jason Day, obviously one of the best golfers in the world right now. That experience was…there’s no words. He finished tied for second, we finished top 10 overall, made the cut, played on Sunday and the weather was just spectacular.
Q: You are the host of many shows that involve love and romance. What kind of advice would you give after watching all these people struggle and probably make some big mistakes on their path to a healthy relationship?
A: First of all, I get it. It’s hard. It’s not easy, especially in this day and age. There’s this mix of us adults out there that aren’t exactly comfortable with being online and doing Tinder, swiping and all that stuff and obviously now Instagram and Twitter and sliding into DMs, it’s a lot. The playing field has changed quite a bit. It’s hard for some of us to find our place. I still think there is a place. It’s being patient and it’s putting yourself out there…in situations, whether it’s at your church, or going to community events, or starting to go to more social events. And then it’s being bold and stepping out of your comfort zone. I’m speaking more towards women here: not sitting back and waiting for it to come to you…If you find someone interesting, go up and have that conversation…I can speak personally, I’ve been there, it’s not easy…You feel intimidated and uncomfortable. It’s so funny that it’s so easy for us to do that in other aspects of our life. But when our heart and our ego and pride is on the line, it’s just easier to play it safe…
For more information on youth mental health, or to donate, please visit granthalliburton.org and aimformentalhealth.org.