PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new report says Philadelphia children are suffering long-lasting, harmful impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The advocacy organization Children First says during the pandemic, Philadelphia youth suicide calls jumped 62%.
On Monday, Children First and the City of Philadelphia shared new efforts to improve the future of the younger generations.
"We really need you. We need you. We need your help and we need your leadership," Mayor Jim Kenney said.
City officials and children advocates are working toward the future, but building from lessons they've learned about the mental toll the pandemic has had on our youngest citizens.
"COVID was a calamity, and it affected every one of our lives, but our children continue to face persistent structural challenges to their safety, their physical well-being and to their mental wellbeing," Children First Executive Director Donna Cooper said.
A new report by Children First looks into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young students in Philadelphia.
According to their findings, statewide suicide hotline calls jumped by 62% during the pandemic.
"This trend follows the national trend. Our kids are not doing well. The anxiety they feel is real, so real that they're willing to take their lives," Cooper said.
During the pandemic's peak, Zion Sykes battled with his own mental health struggles.
"I ended up becoming homeless during the pandemic. Compounding that with the loss of people due to COVID and struggling with sort of how to deal with online school, it definitely made things really rough," Sykes said.
This report is just one effort that's addressing the impacts of learning loss and mental health, on top of that, the City of Philadelphia is now launching the first-ever PHL Youth Week.
"I feel empowered. I feel amazing only because at this young age I can actually be here. I'm doing big things at just 16," high school student Tamara Gamble said.
This week the City of Philadelphia along with community organizations will be hosting free events focused on revitalizing the younger generation through health and wellness education, entrepreneurship discussions and violence prevention measures.
"It provides a way out, I think. When you are trapped in a place where you don't have the ability to really elevate yourself, you don't know what to do," Sykes said.
Click here for a list of upcoming events that are part of the PHL Youth Week.
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