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Was PTSD a factor in children's death?
Other Katrina refugee turned violent earlier
Ngoc Phan and three of her children; Lindsey, Luong, Ryan Phan and Hannah Luong, sit outside their Hinesville home. - photo by AP Photo/Press-Register, Kam Phengsisomboun
After the body of a third child - thought to be one of four children thrown from a bridge into the Gulf of Mexico by their father - was found and communities still reeled from the tragedy near Bayou La Batre, Ala., questions remain.
What could have driven Lam Luong to reportedly respond to a fight with his wife, Kieu Phan, by harming the children? What caused him to allegedly turn to drugs and become addicted to crack cocaine?
There is an unsettling similarity between Luong and Mike Pruitt, who in October 2006, took his three children from their Hinesville home at Shady Oaks Mobile Home Park and dropped them off at his mother's home in Ellisville, Miss. Later the same day he killed himself, leaving a note for his mother saying he felt compelled to kill himself because he had done something terribly wrong. Authorities later discovered Pruitt's wife, Deneese, dead inside her Hinesville home shot in the head with a .38 caliber gun.
Both families were Hurricane Katrina refugees who had been driven from their homes by the 2005 storm and who moved to the Hinesville area hoping for fresh starts.
The psychological toll on a victim of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or violence can range from none to extensive. One of the most common disorders that afflict some of these victims is post traumatic stress disorders.
According to an article published in 2005 in a journal for the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD has often been misunderstood or misdiagnosed, even though the disorder has specific symptoms.  Although it was once thought to be mostly a disorder of war veterans who had been involved in heavy combat, researchers now know that PTSD also affects civilians, striking more women than men.
As recent as November a report conducted by Ronald Kessler, professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School was published in Science Daily showing the percentage of pre-hurricane residents of the affected areas in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi who have mental disorders has increased significantly compared to just five to eight months after the hurricane. These findings counter a more typical pattern from previous disasters where prevalence of mental disorders decreases as time passes.
According to Jody Herzog, LCSW and director of counseling at the Fraser Center in Hinesville, there is a strong link to substance abuse and personal violence.
"The substance abuse is like a coping mechanism and the other thing is that their coping skills are probably overwhelmed, which may lead to violence," he said.
In fact according to the American Psychiatric Association, of the symptoms of PTSD many do suffer from a tendency to self medicate in order to numb emotions. Or they are prone to states of hyper-arousal that may lead to fits of emotional rage and violent tendencies. Many suffer both, in addition to having flashbacks where something triggers the memory of the trauma and, in essence, they re-live the experience.
In the case of the Pruitts, Deneese's mother said that, although her daughter expressed she was discontent shortly before her death, there were no signs that Deneese and her husband were having problems that would lead to the murder-suicide. Neighbors described them as a happy couple.
As for Luong, his brother-in-law, Lam Phengsisomboun, told reporters from the Mobile Press-Register that Luong had just recently become a crack addict given to bouts of violent anger. While living in Hinesville, Luong called the Hinesville Police Department after buying and using crack cocaine. He wanted the officers to help him get over his addiction. He was charged for possession of cocaine and was due to face the grand jury in February.
Phengsisomboun told the Press- Register, "As a normal person he was decent to his wife and kids. But he changed. He hit the kids all the time and I could see him getting fed up and throwing the kids off a bridge."
In Hinesville Luong's neighbor at Victory Village Mobile Home Park, James Drayton, described him as a moderately dressed and quiet individual who kept to himself and went to work to care for his family. In contrast Luong's other neighbor, Linda More said she knew Luong had a drug problem and heard him arguing with his wife on several occasions.
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