“If They Had Known” is a 35-minute documentary about an accidental death that shouldn’t have happened. Teen fatality due to prescription drug misuse is on the rise. “If They Had Known” shares the story of Clay Soper’s tragic, accidental death from mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. The film is a catalyst for discussion about the risks surrounding prescription drug misuse and abuse and provides our teens with life-saving information.
Length of film: 35 minutes
Intended Audiences: Teens / Administrators / Communities
“If They Had Known” is a 35-minute documentary about an accidental death that shouldn’t have happened. Teen fatality due to prescription drug misuse and abuse is on the rise across the country. “If They Had Known” shares the story of Clay Soper’s tragic death from mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. The film is a catalyst for discussion about the dangers surrounding the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs today and provides our teens with life-saving information. With this film and documentary program, we hope to educate and empower teens and help to save lives.
Below is the story of how “If They Had Known” came to be.
Clay Soper and his dog, Kota
In the early morning hours of July 18th, 2015 our world changed. We were awakened by a call from our son’s friend telling us that Clay was being taken to the hospital. Not once did we think he would die that night. Not once did we believe this could happen to our son or our family.
That night our son, Clay Soper, accidentally died from the combination of prescription drugs mixed with alcohol. He was 19 (almost 20) – a thriving college student – home for the summer. While at a party, he and his friends mixed Xanax and alcohol and the combination caused Clay’s respiratory system and heart to stop. No one saw it coming – no one thought Clay was in any danger that night. Many of his friends who also put themselves at risk that night now carry the burden of wondering why their heart continues to beat and Clay’s does not. He and his friends made a bad decision that is common within party culture today.
They had no idea that combining prescription drugs with alcohol could kill them or their friend.
Days after Clay’s death, a group of his friends came together to provide support for one another. As they struggled to under-stand how this tragedy could have happened to their friend, the phrase “he didn’t know … we didn’t know” was repeated over and over. Out of this meeting the idea of producing a documentary about how tragedy can happen to anyone was born. Clay’s friends needed his death to have a purpose and for people to know and learn from their loss. They wanted to tell their story in a manner that was truthful and different – something that would resonate with their contemporaries and would capture the attention of other youth.
“If They Had Known” is not about drug addiction or substance abuse. It is an honest and emotional account of an accidental death that shouldn’t have happened. It’s candid peer to peer format is truthful and alarming and has proven to resonate and connect with students in a modern way. Because the story and message is delivered by Clay’s friends and family, not actors, the take away is genuine and impactful. When students view this film, they are watching their world on the screen – and it rattles them. Very often, the auditorium is left silent following the film — so silent you could hear a pin drop.
Until “If They Had Known”, education and information about combining prescription drugs with alcohol was not easily available and the risks unknown. Kids and teenagers are more medicated now than any other previous generation. The lack of knowledge surrounding the risks of prescription drugs is putting our kids at risk. Educating and creating dialogue about the risks associated with current party culture is the goal of our Documentary Program. Understanding that what you don’t know could kill you; accidents do not discriminate; your actions have lasting effects on many; and, most of all, taking care of one another and seeking help if needed is critical to saving lives. Maybe things would be different…If They Had Known.
We established the Clay Soper Memorial Fund (CSMF) because we wanted to make a difference in Clay’s memory.
“If They Had Known” (ITHK) is a project of the Clay Soper Memorial Fund (CSMF), a non-profit 501(c)3 established in 2016.