From the age of five years Mell was drawn to action – her favourite character on TV was a female police officer. As a Sergeant, Mell was often in the thick of it and says that's probably how she ended up with her physical injuries. Pain from a recurring neck injury became impossible to ignore and a significant loss of strength in her right arm meant that Mell was no longer fit for operational duties.
Mell explains how medical retirement from NSW Police felt like her decision. Her biggest challenges initially were managing finances and achieving her independence again. In her current role, Mell retains much of the vigilance she developed as a Police Officer, and enjoys staying connected through Backup for Life where she contributes as a mentor.
“I'd pretend everything was alright so I could get back out there. I'd think 'I'll be good' and just get back out there, didn't do anything about it,” Mell said of her physical injuries, which became impossible to ignore and eventually required surgery.
If I wasn't operational I didn't want to be there at all. I had to finally come to the realisation, the injuries aren't going to disappear, it's going to take a lot of recovery time. At that point I really couldn't work, with the pain and issues I was having. It was basically my decision to leave.”
Mell’s process of medical retirement, recovery and career transition took five years. During that time Mell was eligible for payments from EML and TAL and there were periods where payments took a while to commence or were less than her usual wages might have been.
Receiving payments from two separate organisations – EML and TAL – meant there were times Mell had to repeat details, “I didn't understand there is confidentiality and they can't just exchange information freely. The frustrating thing was just having to repeat things a little bit. But in the end things have worked out all right,” Mell said.
“As a mentor I attend the WorkSafe Solutions (now Beyond the Badge) workshops to provide emotional support and answer any questions people may have. I also help people with preparing their CV and interview skills,” Mell said.
The worst part was sitting around at home all day, thinking ‘what am I going to do?’. Now I go to work, I come home tired and get a proper sleep because I’ve been at work all day. It’s a lot better for your wellbeing and health.”
Mell’s top tips for people going through career transition are:
- Be open to constructive criticism
- Seek advice, take advantage of services available to help you: Backup for Life, Beyond the Badge, EML
- Be proactive, don’t wait for things to come to you – call that recruiter, reach out for help from a friend
- You have transferrable skills, you’re not useless. Your skills are valued by employers