There is always a story behind the story. This column explores beyond the headlines to reveal the hidden tales affecting cultural and social issues throughout the region. There are nights when I cannot sleep; the slogan chanting and cries of panic keep ringing in my ears. There are mornings when I cannot wake up, fearing I’ll open my eyes to a world that has gone further down the slippery slope. Then there are days when I do nothing but cry. At least I am releasing these emotions, I tell myself. For others, who are so caught up in the news cycle, it is a luxury they may not have. The daily news is filled with stories of how Hong Kong residents, protesters and law enforcers alike are suffering from the political turmoil and unrest that has gripped the city for the past few months; seldom discussed, or even acknowledged, is the mental toll this is taking on those covering the protests. First to arrive and last to leave, journalists are as dedicated to their duty as the strongest supporters are committed to their cause. Even as protesters disperse, they stay, watching for potential clashes or arrests, their shifts stretching endlessly into the early hours – and, unlike for police officers, there is no such thing as overtime pay. Long hours and little rest are only some of the factors. Flashbacks, insomnia, or jumping at every loud bang that resembles a weapon being fired are symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, common to those who have witnessed conflicts and distressing events. And don’t forget that journalists, who need to keep track of every confrontation, are subjected to police violence themselves . They couldn’t even find the time for another counselling session and send their parents to pick up the medication A psychriatist on journalist patients he has seen this summer While the protests themselves are not the cause of the mental health crisis in Hong Kong society, they have set off a ticking time bomb in the media industry that was there long before the protests began. A survey conducted in June and July found that nearly one in 10 Hongkongers have symptoms of depression . In July, I spoke to a psychiatrist for a story on the mental health crisis this city was facing. He admitted that reporters, who form part of his clientele, are one of the groups most prone to depression and anxiety. “They couldn’t even find the time for another counselling session and send their parents to pick up the medication,” he said. As he listed the typical advice on how to deal with emotional stress – such as regular exercise and sleep, unplugging from the news and social media, spending time on hobbies and avoiding alcohol – I couldn’t help but note that these are not real options for reporters. “And what if drinking IS the hobby?” I inquired. ( The question I didn’t ask was: how do they afford private treatment on a reporter’s pay cheque?) The biggest source of despair comes from within. Covering the protests may just be part of a journalist’s job, but Hong Kong is also our home, a place in which we are emotionally invested, to whose people we are connected, and whose future is also ours. To record events as they unfold and watch as blood and tears are shed is, inevitably, painful. Yet every cloud has a silver lining. Lying awake in the dead of night, I find solace in what I call “Twitter therapy”; an interviewee, sensing my distress during a phone call, gently reminded me to “breathe”. Then there was a father I met at one of many rallies during this summer of rage. Three people had committed suicide that weekend, and amid the sea of black were sprays of white flowers, offered as an act of remembrance. I walked along with the crowd, desperately holding myself together. A man and his nine-year-old son were sitting on some stairs. I tapped his shoulder and asked him how he was feeling. He began talking about the three young people who had taken their lives, but couldn’t finish the sentence as tears began to roll down his face. I couldn’t hold back mine either. And in that quiet moment of connection, I found the strength to carry on.