Halloween is not typically associated with mental health issues. Nobody talks about "Halloween blues," or family conflicts around Halloween.

Nevertheless, as Halloween is observed in most communities, this is a great time for you to line up interviews with local news media, sharing your wisdom on various mental health aspects of Halloween festivities and celebrations. Since there are far fewer mental health professionals weighing in on this observance vs Thanksgiving and Christmas, your message will stand out.

Your local news media have probably been doing the same old Halloween stories for decades - costumes, parades, safe trick-or-treat practices, etc. Thus, they will welcome a fresh psychological angle on common Halloween traditions and experiences.

Here are a few topics to get you started in thinking creatively about what to pitch to reporters:

  • Does sugar really make kids hyperactive?
  • Why people visit haunted houses and go to scary movies, even though such experiences are nerve-racking
  • How divvying up Halloween treats can be a lesson for siblings to negotiate and share
  • How costumes can help build confidence through role playing and behaving "as if"
  • How to help your child overcome fears

How to contact news media

Don't wait for reporters to call you. Contact the news directors of your TV, radio and print media and pitch your idea for a story. Most news websites have forms for submitting story ideas. Be very specific about the points you'd like to communicate.

You can also contact individual reporters via email or  social media. Focus on those who cover health and lifestyle topics. Reporters appreciate hearing from professionals, because their comments add credibility to the news stories.

When you contact news media, begin your pitch with "Story idea: …" listing your topic after the colon. Then give a brief description that arouses curiosity.

Here's a hypothetical example of a tweet to a local health news reporter:

Story idea: When is a child old enough to go to a haunted house? As a family therapist, I can explain what parents should consider in deciding whether their child is ready for this experience. Pls contact me if interested.

Be prepared to speak with the reporter on very short notice, sometimes within an hour or two. Therefore, have your talking points ready.

The media interview

Reporters may interview you in person, via phone or video, or they may send you questions to answer via email.

If you have time, prepare a few bullet points with key information that the reporter can use to ask you relevant questions, and later to fill in content for their story.

Keep your answers brief, on topic, and simple. This is especially important for radio and TV news interviews, because you will be allotted, at most, two or three sound bites of 10 to 15 seconds.

If, during the interview, you stumble over your words, you can ask for a do-over of your statement, and most reporters will accommodate you. (In fact, they often do multiple takes of their own delivery.)

After your media interview is published...

Most news stations post their articles and video clips on their websites. Thus, your interview will likely have a longer shelf life than just one news broadcast or one edition of the newspaper.

If your interview is posted on the news website, it will show up in Google search results when someone searches for your name or for the topic you talked about.

For a little extra visibility on Google, be sure to link to the news story from your website and from your social media accounts. Even better, write a blog post or article on the same topic but in greater detail, and then link to the news site where you are quoted.

Will news media interviews result in referrals?

The purpose of doing news media interviews is to educate the public about common mental health issues, and to help brand you as a knowledgeable mental health expert. It's not only free exposure to audiences you won't reach on your own; it's also an implied endorsement of your expertise by the media company.

You may get a referral as a direct result of your interview, but it is more likely that referrals will build over time as you become well known in your community through multiple news interviews and other ethical marketing activities.

Getting more media interviews

If a reporter likes what you have to say, there's a good chance that they will contact you for input on future stories. The more media interviews you do, the more comfortable you'll be doing them.

Repeated exposure via news interviews may lead to new opportunities, such as speaking engagements, workshops and publications.