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Selena Gomez : ‘I went away for 90 days’ due to depression

Selena Gomez is opening up about the “really difficult time” that she endured last year.

In August, PEOPLE reported that Gomez, 24, took a career break after suffering from “anxiety, panic attacks and depression” due to her lupus diagnosis. At the same time that the superstar took off time to care for herself, her new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why — which addresses serious topics including depression and suicide — was at the beginning of production.

“I was actually going through a really difficult time when they started production,” Gomez, who serves as an executive producer on the new drama, said Wednesday at a Netflix press event, The Hollywood Reporter reports. “I went away for 90 days and I actually met tons of kids in this place that we’re talking about a lot of the issues that these characters are experiencing.”

In an exclusive statement to PEOPLE last summer, Gomez said, “As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways. I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges. I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support. You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best. I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”

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During the singer and actress’ 90-day break, Gomez revealed that she gave up her phone for the three month period, which she described as “the most refreshing, calming, rejuvenating feeling.” Although Gomez has since returned to engaging with fans on Instagram, and holds the title of the most followed person on the photo-sharing app, she is still not too keen on social media.

“It’s hard right now. I can’t stand social media, I can’t stand what they’re looking at,” said Gomez. “I can’t stand what they think is reality and the show is real as it could possibly get.”

Based off of the popular book, Gomez’s new show tells the story of a young woman who commits suicide, but leaves behind 13 cassette tapes for all the people who contributed to her death.

“Unfortunately, kids don’t care. They don’t care,” Gomez said, and added of the series, “They have to see something that’s going to scare them. They need to see something that’s frightening.

“I want them to understand it,” continued Gomez. “I would do anything to be able to have a good influence on this generation but I definitely relate to everything that was going on. I was there for the last episode and I was a mess just seeing it all come to life because I’ve experienced that.”

She added: “My hope for 13 Reasons Why is … they can have these conversations about these incredibly difficult and really life-or-death topics without starting from the place of fear or having to protect their own secrets.”

At the end of January, Gomez took to Instagram to share a sneak peek of the new Netflix series — and why she was “nervous as hell” about it.

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“This was the day I was nervous as hell going into @Netflix for the first time to talk about @13reasonswhy,” Gomez captioned a serious-faced selfie. “My mom found this book in 2009 and worked her ass off to make it with me, guide me and tell this story authentically (the only reason, beside Jay this project was even made).”

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