Santa Reconsiders 'Naughty Or Nice' Labels In Powerful Mental Health PSA

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 

Santa is here in NAMI’s new PSA to remind us all that mental health sometimes doesn’t fit conventional labels

While the holidays are full of plenty of warm and fuzzy feelings, things aren’t so cheery for everyone, and Santa stars in a thought-provoking new PSA that’s here to remind us that for those who struggle with their mental health, the holidays might be a tougher time than usual.

The ad was created by agency Wieden + Kennedy New York for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). It features Santa, sitting on a rooftop, thinking aloud about the labeling system he’s been using for children since he started his job. Are “naughty” and “nice” too simplistic to capture what’s actually going on with kids, he wonders?

“I think I did this all wrong,” he says. “It started with good intentions. A way to motivate behavior, to codify gift giving, streamline deliveries. But—naughty or nice? As if some kids don’t have enough to worry about, only to have me judge them without context, without perspective.”

He then begins to wonder what that binary label has done to kids who already struggle.

“Reducing these growing, varied, intricate beings to some binary code of this or that, naughty or nice,” he says. “Did I condemn every kid who already felt like a misfit toy? Maybe there’s something else, something I missed.”

In 2019, we know that more than 40 million people in the U.S. will experience some sort of struggle with their mental health in any given year, and kids are not immune from that. They need the same understanding and support that adults deserve, because mental illness doesn’t discriminate by age.

In the most touching part of his monologue, Santa continues, “Naughty or nice? Isn’t it just as possible that they’re nervous or nice? Uncomfortable-in-their-own-skin or nice? I’m-angry-and-I-don’t-know-why or nice? My-impulses-are-beyond-my-control or nice? Hurting or nice? And who can blame them? With the news, the lockdown drills, the internet? The world is bearing down on them and we expect these struggling kids to just, what? Speak when spoken to? What if, with a little understanding, a little perspective, it’s just interesting or nice. I mean, show me an interesting, fully formed person and I’ll show you a once difficult child. It’s only taken me 1000 years but I think I finally see it. These kids, they’re not naughty or nice. They’re kids.”

The ad spot ends with this message from NAMI for recognizing one another’s mental health around the holidays: “Look for signs, not labels.”

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