The suitcase owner's responses to hospitalization ranged from resignation to resistance, from despair to the hope that they might someday be released. In the medical records, one finds no indication that any of them thought that their confinement at Willard was warranted, or that they benefited from being there. Some seemed resigned to their fate, and some tried to make the best of their situation. At one extreme, people like Margaret, Herman and Theresa simply shut down, retreating into silence and an inner world of their own. Others, like Ethel, kept active by helping around the ward. Rodrigo busied himself with reading, writing poetry, and helping his fellow patients. Dmytro and Lawrence were able to find some meaning in their lives; Dmytro through his painting, and Lawrence in his role as gravedigger.

But even people who seemed acquiescent occasionally showed flashes of resistance to their fate, while others, like Madeline, were consistently defiant. In the early 1930s, she fiercely said, "I want out of here immediately. I think it is an outrage to be brought here." In 1965, she was still demanding her release: "I don't like this hospital. I resent being detained and wasting my time." Dmytro pleaded to return home and made several escape attempts; Lawrence wrote to the superintendent demanding his freedom and back pay for his work; and even Margaret, who seemed grimly resigned, occasionally asked to be allowed to go home.