The newly released second season of Netflix’s hit show 13 Reasons Why has, like season 1, faced a fair amount of controversy for its depictions of how mental health, bullying, sexual assault, and addiction affect teenagers. Now, some of the producers and cast members have responded to the backlash, suggesting that the series can serve as an impetus for important — if difficult — conversations.

“I don’t think a lot of [parents] knew it was going to be such a conversation starter,” producer Mandy Teefey, mother of another of the show’s producers, Selena Gomez, told ET. “I think it made a connection, whether they wanted to make it or not. The fact that we’re talking about it and that it was so talked about, that was our goal.”

Netflix initially faced concerns last season that its depictions of suicide and other delicate topics were potentially harmful and triggering for viewers. In response, the streaming service teamed up with Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development to conduct a study about the effects of the show, the results of which helped inform season 2. Every episode now includes a disclaimer that suggests resources for those struggling with mental health issues.

One of the cast members, Justin Prentice, who plays the predatory Liberty High student Bryce, said that the show is meant to reflect reality. “This stuff is already going on in these high schools,” he told ET. “These kids are already experiencing it in their day-to-day lives. … I think it makes the conversation a little easier for kids opening up to parents and parents to kids.”

Season 2 may reflect attempts to effectively provide avenues for people to seek help, but it certainly hasn’t shied away from difficult, and often graphic, depictions of sexual assault and violence. Recently, the Parents Television Council urged Netflix to pull the series because of what they deemed potentially harmful content. But Teefy thinks the show is a reflection of teens’ current reality.

“There’s nothing that anybody ever has put or had the desire in our group to make anything gratuitous or shock value,” she told ET. “It’s shocking, it’s horrific, but it’s happening.”

If you’re struggling or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

What do you think of the backlash to 13 Reasons Why? Let us know @BritandCo.

(photos via Netflix + Beth Dubber/Netflix)