Lorna Thomas, Edmonton, AB
Lorna’s son, Alex Thomas-Haug, was a fun-loving boy with a wide smile, blue eyes and red hair. He grew into a handsome and popular young man, an honors student who was passionate about snowboarding. Answering the promise of making big money in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, Alex trained as a welder. He worked long, hard hours, sometimes more than 60 hours a week. He became isolated and depressed behind his protective welding mask. In May, 2012 Alex died by suicide. After his death Lorna found out that Alex had become addicted to cocaine. The family believes he was self-medicating with drug use to help him cope with depression and his intense work schedule. They also believe that he did not talk about his problems or ask for help because he internalized the stigma associated with having mental health and substance use issues.
When Alex died Lorna retired as a filmmaker. Since then she has dedicated herself to educational initiatives that promote mental health and suicide prevention, particularly for those in the trades. She is also a vocal advocate for treating drug misuse as a health issue rather than a justice problem. In April, 2016 Lorna attended the United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on Drug Policy in New York in April, 2016, joining other mothers from around the world who are calling for an end to the war on drugs and drug policy reform.