SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — External factors like bullying can impact boys and their mental health now and when they grow up.

“I’ve gotten really close to my breaking point,” Wyatt Anderson said. “Like when people comment on my weight or make fun of me.”

Being bullied, that experience lives on for everyone’s child. It’s a cycle.

These local boys who opened up about their experiences in school walk a fine line between victim and aggressor.

“I do feel really angry and I want to, like, hit them and fight with them, but I don’t want to do that,” Emme Jeffries said, a local student.

But the reality is not simply action and reaction. Sometimes, boys are reluctant to open up about their hurt.

The problem is that today’s boys are at an age where how their friends treat them matters most, even if they don’t want to admit it.

Dr. Bill Mallot, a local psychologist affiliated with Burrell Behavioral Health, explains.

“As they get more and more to adolescence, they rely more on the feedback they get from their friends than they do from anybody else,” Mallot said. “This really helps shape their identity in a lot of positive and in negative ways.”

New research finds bullying in adolescence is associated with mental health challenges as adults, making the experiences of everyone’s child everyone’s concern as the life cycle turns.

And Emme’s mom, Denise, sees today’s bullies not just as the aggressors, but as victims themselves.

“A lot of times, kids who bully are being bullied at home or by somebody else outside of school, or in school,” Denise said.

This is why public schools have made anti-bullying campaigns a core part of their curriculum.

But school efforts only address part of a child’s day, and Dr. Mallot has advice for how anyone can help boys who face bullying.

“Take an interest in that child,” Mallot said. “Take them aside, talk to them about it, but make sure this is not an atmosphere for them to feel weak.”

Perhaps the community can help break this cycle. And boys like Emme are ready.

“I don’t want to hurt people, but I also don’t want people to hurt me and my feelings,” Emme said.